Sunday, September 30, 2012

The New Novel

"Fess up: Are you more jazzed about the release of the new Abraham Lincoln biopic by Steven Spielberg or the season premiere of Homeland (September 30, 10 p.m., on Showtime)?"

I would like to highly recommend an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education titled Cable is the New Novel. An extremely well thought out and well written treatise on the evolution of the cable television series to its current place in the American culture. 

Some samples: 

"Like the bulky tomes of Dickens and Dreiser, Trollope and Wharton, the series are thick on character and dense in plot line, spanning generations and tribal networks and crisscrossing the currents of personal life and professional duty."

"Viewing and reviewing shows on mobile devices, iPads, and computer screens, or via DVR and box sets, not only helps aficionados connect dots and track motifs across a season but encourages artists to more carefully embroider the details of their product."

"Smelling fresh prey, graduate students and university publishers are closing in on a genre ripe for the exegetical plucking."

My personal current favorite is Dexter, which begins its 7th season tonight. Followed closely by the blockbuster Game of Thrones with or without the full frontal exposure. Homeland comes in third on my must see list but with only one short first season in the can, we shall see how it does or doesn't carry on. And even though Homeland premieres tonight after Dexter, don't ask me about them for at least a couple of months. I use the DVR and save them up for a weekend orgy of consumption.

Finally, my own personal confession from the brink of the reality versus fantasy struggle - I have yet to see a single episode of Mad Men or Breaking Bad.

Thursday, September 27, 2012


I'm not a big conspiracy guy. Oh I got a bit concerned about the bird flu six or eight years ago but not much else gets me too worked up.

However, it would appear that the lingering threat from the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan just might be worth a few sleepless nights.

The six nuclear reactors at the Fukushima power plant were all damaged by the tsunami triggered by the March 11, 2011 earthquake. The three reactors that were operating at full power experienced "full meltdown" and were eventually flooded with sea water effectively destroying them.

Recent leaked reports are that the radiation levels in reactor #1 are higher now than they have ever been. Reports also circulate of official coverups of the amount of radiation that has escaped into the waters of the Pacific Ocean and may still be leaking into the coastal waters.

"In the immediate wake of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster that occurred in Japan last year, radioactive releases of epic proportions flooded the waters of the Pacific Ocean, where they now flow adrift. And even though more than a year has passed since the time of the first releases, some scientists believe the worst is yet to come as these water-borne radioactive plumes head for the U.S. West Coast."

There is no international agency monitoring the continuing recovery measures no evidence exists that a clean up of the most damaged reactors is even possible yet. With levels higher than immediately after the tsunami and subsequent hydrogen explosions there remains the potential for even larger radioactive releases in the future.

Excellent coverage can be found in Devil's Dance: How I Learned the Fukushima Step by Step.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A Blotch on Mars

After a rocket-powered descent stage, also known as the sky crane, delivered NASA's Curiosity rover to Mars on Aug. 5, 2012; it flew away and fell to the surface. Possible multiple impacts from that collision are revealed in blue in this enhanced-color view taken by the High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

The main crash site is seen at right, shaped like a fan. Farther from the site are several smaller dark spots, which are thought to be secondary impacts from debris that continued to travel outward. The impact sites are darker because the lighter, reddish top layer of soil was disturbed, revealing darker basaltic sands underneath.

The full image for these observations can be seen at here

data analysis from NASA website

Monday, September 24, 2012

Negative Political Ads

Recently I was surprised to hear this statement from a conservative whack-job friend: "The negative ads are running 5 to 1 from the Obama people." By which he meant that the Obama campaign and associated PACs were running five negative television ad spots for every one run by the Romney camp and fellow travelers.

I found those numbers to be ludicrous and wildly out of proportion. So I did some research. I discovered that over 70% of all television advertising in the 2012 presidential race has been classified as "negative" by both liberal and conservative election watchdog sources. Everyone agrees this is the most negative campaign in nearly a century. But 5 to 1 that didn't seem possible. So I asked some liberal friends about their assessment of the balance between negative Romney vs. negative Obama ads. They said it was running about 3 to 1 in the opposite direction. Three negative ads from the republicans for every one by the democrats.

Well of course! If you support Romney and detest Obama then all the democrat ads look negative and most of the republican ads look like the truth. I had completely overlooked the obvious fact that these reports were coming from partisan observers. So I got a hold of a few actual independent voters and sure enough they told me it was about 50/50 but they were sure they had not seen the 30% that were allegedly non-negative ads. "Every single ad is an attack ad or some accusation of evil-doing by the other side."

Let me remind you of my earlier antidote to this nonsense. You are in control. You can mute the sound and not listen to the crap that both the democrats and republicans are spewing at you 24/7. Stop watching, stop listening. Have a martini or a snickers or a bowl of blueberries both an antioxidant and an antipoliticant. Or you can continue to follow the campaign and let the propaganda from "your side" demonized friends and neighbors who support the other guy.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Remember Aurora?

"If you live in America, you are four times more likely to be murdered than if you live in Britain, almost six times more likely than in Germany, and 13 times more likely than in Japan. These are simple facts on which all can agree; just as it is a simple fact that two-thirds of all murders in America involve guns, whereas in Britain the figure is under 10%. Beyond that, though, there is not a flicker of consensus in America about what to do about the grisly harvest that last year gathered in 9,000 lives."
- Picture, quote and article from The Economist

The Aurora massacre was sixty days ago today.

In the United States we live in a gun culture, we are the only such shooter nation in the first world. I personally believe that will never change. I think gun laws and the debate are useless while a majority of U.S. citizens support gun ownership. The debate in my opinion is a waste of breathe and of political capital. But that does not provide answers to the questions of why as a nation we feel so justified and righteous about slaughtering ourselves. 

The arguments of the NRA are infantile and self-serving. The second amendment does not guarantee the right to bear arms. But none of that matters, as I said, this is a gun-toting country and it always will be. So fine you get to keep your guns but slaughters like Aurora, Virginia Tech, Fort Hood and Columbine cannot be explained away with some pithy "if guns are outlawed only outlaws will have guns." That's lazy logic and you don't get to utter such mealy-mouthed crap while you have a gun strapped to your belt. 

If you bear arms you also need to bear the responsibility for the harm done by other gun owners, it is simply not enough to be an isolated responsible gun owner. You need to stand up to the reckless use of guns by others. Be a citizen not merely a smug individual. With freedom comes responsibility and I see very few gun owners taking on that burden.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Black Gay Marriage

“We have and will oppose efforts to codify discrimination into law.” NAACP Board 

Following the announcement in May by President Obama, the board of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People formerly voted to endorse gay marriage. A political statement to be sure but a difficult one facing the fact that many of it's religious members oppose gay marriage.

A former official with the NAACP has pointed out the issue for many blacks: “for certain people, it was a very long evolution and a very long process of reconciling their faith with this, and coming to a very civil rights understanding of marriage equality versus a theological understanding of marriage.”

To the NAACP I say two things: 1) Well done; 2) It's about damn time.

To those reluctant blacks and especially those black ministers who will still preach against gay marriage from their pulpits, I would offer this observation. The next time you mention the word "slavery" or obliquely reference the suffering of "your people" at the hands of others. Your historical petition is diminished, your rhetoric declines when you call out others for your own sins. Bigotry in any form is in conflict with the message of that "book" you wave about. The same book that justifies and endorses slavery and quite literally says nothing about marriage other than what you and others create from some strained reading of translated and retranslated words from two thousand years ago.

This is all really quite simple, either you are a bigot or you aren't - your choice. The NAACP has decided they are not, how about you?

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Voter Suppression

For those few who want to shout - "Hey it's Obama who is trying to deny the military the right to vote in Ohio." Please check your facts. Do not rely on some thirty-second political commercial run by some sleazy Super PAC.

I don't care for Obama either but like any other politician you don't have to make up shit about them, what they actually do is more than enough to dislike them. 

The voter suppression in Ohio and other states is completely a republican maneuver.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Ice Harvest - Ice Storm

I want to recommend two movies you may have missed: Ice Harvest and Ice Storm. Both are slightly dark but incredibly human. I ran across Ice Harvest about a month ago on cable and was reminded of Ice Storm which is now 15 years old.

Ice Storm is an early film my director Ang Lee, who has since done Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Brokeback Mountain. The cast includes: Kevin Kline, Joan Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Tobey McGuire, Christina Ricci and Elijah Wood. 

"In the weekend after thanksgiving 1973 the Hoods are skidding out of control. Benjamin Hood reels from drink to drink, trying not to think about his trouble at the office. His wife, Elena, is reading self help books and losing patience with her husband's lies. Their son, Paul, home for the holidays, escapes to the city to pursue an alluring rich girl from his prep school. And young, budding nymphomaniac, Wendy Hood roams the neighborhood, innocently exploring liquor cabinets and lingerie drawers of her friends' parents, looking for something new. Then an ice storm hits, the worst in a century. Things get bad..."

Ice Harvest comes from director Harold Ramis, who wrote and directed Caddyshack and Groundhog Day. He also wrote Ghostbusters and Animal House. The film stars Billy Bob Thornton and John Cusack with a great supporting role to Oliver Platt. 

"Larceny, lust and lethal behavior. In icebound Wichita, Kansas, it's Christmas Eve, and this year Charlie Arglist just might have something to celebrate. Charlie, an attorney for the sleazy businesses of Wichita, and his unsavory associate, the steely Vic Cavanaugh have just successfully embezzled $2 million from Kansas City boss Bill Guerrard. But the real prize for Charlie is the stunning Renata, who runs the Sweet Cage strip club. Charlie hopes to slip out of town with Renata. But as daylight fades and an ice storm whirls, everyone from Charlie's drinking buddy Pete Van Heuten to the local police begin to wonder just what exactly is in Charlie's Christmas stocking - and the 12 hours of Christmas Eve are filled with surprises."

Yes the ice storm plays a role in both films but what really ties them together for me is the naked humanness of the characters unwise decisions. Perhaps these would best be digested around the holidays as Ice Storm is set at Thanksgiving and Ice Harvest on Christmas Eve. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

For Matty

This is one of my favorite images I have ever posted on this blog. I don't know why exactly, I used it over four years ago. Only recently did I find an alternate image I like even more.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Stop the Madness!

Some of you are going to thank me for this, others will think I'm crazier than the Mad Hatter himself.

First a question. Have you decided to vote for either Mitt Romney or Barack Obama? You have. Well then let me offer you a piece of sanity you may not have considered.

You can stop following the presidential campaign today. With 56 days to go until election day, you can opt out of any more negative ads, political talking heads, friendly and not-so-friendly discussions at home, work and with friends or neighbors.

You can chose not only your own sanity but the peace and quiet of bullshitlessness for nearly two full months. Why torture yourself? Nothing is going to change your mind and you are likely not going to persuade anyone else either. Imagine the tranquility of stopping the campaign today. You can do it.

However, should you take this sage advice you are required to continue to read my blog. You can skip any blatantly political posts but you have to read the ones that attack both political parties. It's only fair, I showed you the way out of this dirty little campaign, so have the decency to muck about once a week with me and my dark shadow [1969 B.S. Political Science - Kalamazoo College].

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Profile Picture

Adventuresome. Likes to travel. Into long lonely drives on red planets. Seeking signs of life.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Women and the Right

I am not a single issue voter, but I think if I were a woman I would be.

I have asked several conservative woman how they can tolerate the vicious attacks on their bodies, their rights and their gender and still vote republican. Of course, there are justifying arguments. Like:

"Those are fringe elements making those proposals."

But mostly what I hear is some slightly veiled thought process that is for all intents and purposes - classist and sexist. It comes down to: "Those things don't happen to me."

Really? You don't use birth control? You don't seek out reproductive health care? Oh I see you can afford it yourself. What about rape, unwanted pregnancy... What about your daughter? Is this really just a massive gender specific delusion, an epidemic of sticking your pretty little heads in the sand?

Yes there are other issues. The economy is a huge deal right now. Perhaps for you there are social issues that align you with conservative politics. I get it. But these people, at least some of these people, are seeking to legislate control of your body. Doesn't that upset you? Seriously please explain this to me. Why are we still having a conversation about the right of each individual to determine what happens to their own body? I really do not understand.

So why bring it up now? Well this morning I was reading the Republican Party platform for 2012. Some of those people really don't like women and even more surprising some of those people are women.

I just don't get it. If you tried legislating any conduct that limited the free and open expression of the collective penis & testicle set you would have fist fights in the streets. Are the vaginas of the world really so different? I really don't get it. Oh nevermind. Hey babe, make me a sandwich.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Money and Democracy

“The fate of our country is now in the hands of people 
who don’t think about what they want until 
they get right up to the register at McDonald’s.”
-Stephen Colbert

By most conservative estimates the two political parties will spend around $150 million dollars this month and another equal amount in October. In the first five days of November when almost no voters are still to be won over, the campaigns will throw every last nickel they have at nearly no one still willing to listen.

As of right now most pollsters and political academics calculate that 95%+ of the potential voting public have made up their minds and cannot be swayed in their decision. So there are less than 5% of the voters to spend all that money on. In addition because of our antiquated voting process most of those voters are in states that have already been conceded to one candidate or the other. 

The overwhelming majority of nearly half a billion dollars will be concentrated in the final seven "swing" states: Virginia, Florida, Ohio, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire and Colorado. Less than 5% of the voters in 7 states will be the target of $500 million dollars worth of advertising of which we are told 70% will be in the form of negative ads.

Is this any way to elect a president? Is this any way to elect a dog catcher?

And by the way, this half a billion dollars does NOT include all the private money going to Super PACS, of which we are told more than 90% goes to negative advertising. 

To my libertarian friends who would answer: "It's my money, I can do whatever I want with it." I would answer: "It's my country and it isn't for sale to either side."

Sunday, September 02, 2012

I'm Back Again

After two months of random pictures and kitty kats, I'm back. As usual I have lots to say and a whole bunch of it is political.

But I intend to register some restraint. Two posts and a couple of pictures a week. Look for political ranting on Monday and something completely different on Thursday. Except this week when my flaming cup doth overflow.

The book is going well. Got some great feedback recently and am currently shuffling the main characters around a bit. Should be back to good solid churning out of words by late this week.

May pleasant fall (or spring) weather descend upon you soon.