Good to Know

December 23, 2008

From the BBC:

Pope Benedict XVI has said that saving humanity from homosexual or transsexual behaviour is just as important as saving the rainforest from destruction.

I’m not quite sure what the connection is between oxygen production and homosexuality, but I’m sure it’s there.

The connection is actually not so strange.  Centuries ago, the Chinese believed that homosexuality caused earthquakes.  I guess the Pope now has other information.


“Sadly Mistaken” Indeed

December 14, 2008

From the NY Times, about the first conversation between Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and the first American head of Iraq, Jay Gardner:

The history records how Mr. Garner presented Mr. Rumsfeld with several rebuilding plans, including one that would include projects across Iraq.

“What do you think that’ll cost?” Mr. Rumsfeld asked of the more expansive plan.

“I think it’s going to cost billions of dollars,” Mr. Garner said.

“My friend,” Mr. Rumsfeld replied, “if you think we’re going to spend a billion dollars of our money over there, you are sadly mistaken.”

“Sadly mistaken” indeed.  In the immortal words of Homer Simpson, “It’s funny because it’s true.”

Revolutionary Road Not Taken

December 8, 2008

Just when millions of people are losing their homes comes Revolutionary Road, a new Sam Mendes movie about the emptiness of the suburban dream.  The movie is in an unfortunate juxtaposition with history.  According to the film, the suburban dream is rife with adultery, abortion and insanity.

Granted, this may not be news to anyone with a television, but the movie posits this as revelation. I suppose the source material should be blamed, but Richard Yates wrote the novel of the same name in 1961, when a daring expose of suburban anomie was, if not prescient, at least,  interesting.

Tragically, with the movie being released during a new depression, it can only be seen as a hip putdown of the people who are desperately struggling to maintain a suburban living standard — or even just trying to keep the damn house.

Despite the movie, and the previous decades of revelations of suburban depravity, I think we will soon look back on the suburbs with nostalgia and no little envy.  The suburban period of American history — say, 1950 to 2007 — will be remembered as the golden age of the American middle class, a time when there were rising living standards, lots of inexpensive real estate, abundant energy, and a more equitable distribution of wealth.

We may never see such a time again.

The eBook Has Arrived

November 13, 2008

For a decade, the book publishing industry has been waiting to be chewed up and spit out by the digital beast.  Although the internet has significantly impacted how books are distributed and sold, nothing had changed the book as a medium — until now.

A recent article in the Times combines three signature events.  The first is  Google making a deal with writers and publishers over their Book Search project, which will result in the digitization and easy access of literally millions of books online (many if not most of them out of print).

The second is the (relative) success of Amazon’s Kindle.  The Kindle interface is still a kludge, but it’s standalone, wireless connection to Amazon via the internet to download books, magazines — even the daily paper — is positively elegant.

The third is the ubiquity of bookreading software for the iPhone, particularly in Japan.

eHeads are still waiting for Apple to do for books what they’ve done for music.  If such an event came to pass, the ebook market would explode.  Alternatively, Kindle, or Sony, which also has an ebook reader, could combine the Kindle’s ease of connectivity with the iPhone’s ergonomic wit, to create a book technology killer.

For publishers, print is so expensive to produce, distribute and market, they should cheer the devouring of their near 600-year-old technology by the beast.  But it’s very hard to reinvent industries from the inside, or even just to be excited by the prospect of a fresh start.

Best Line of the Day

November 5, 2008

Quoted from Wonkette, quoting from Newsweek:

A disgusted McCain aide calls the Palins “Wasilla hillbillies looting Neiman Marcus from coast to coast.”

It seems that the Palins spent a lot more than $150,000 for clothes.

McCain’s Early Fairwell

November 3, 2008

McCain’s recent appearance on SNL was the beginning of his path to regaining acceptance by the public and even more importantly — by the media — after the drubbing he is about to take in this election.

The long opening sketch made McCain look good while mercilessly drubbing Sarah Palin (she did an aside to camera promoting “Palin in 2012” t-shirts). McCain came across as the old, media-friendly ham he’s been for years, rather than the desperate to win, Rovesque character assassin he’s been the last months.

McCain will be a lonely man starting on Wednesday.  He’ll be reviled by the dominant, right wing of his party for not being tough enough and leading his party to ruin.  The moderates and liberals, who had once made McCain their favorite Republican, are unlikely to soon forgive him for the very low road he’s taken on the campaign.

By appearing in a skit that attacked the ambitiousness and duplicity of his own running mate, McCain was laying the groundwork for a mea culpa to the moderates and Dems (while further alienating him from the Republican right wing).  He’s making his pitch for relevance in a Democratic-controlled Senate.

My sense is that the Dems will be magnanimous in victory.  The more seriously they take McCain in the Senate, the more they’ll divide the Republican senators, and the Republican circular firing squad will continue through 2012.

I Seem To Have Lost the Election

October 30, 2008

Great viral video.