FROM THE REAL ART SPORTS DESK
Robert Griffin III rallies No. 25 Baylor to first win over Texas since 1997
From the AP via ESPN:
AUSTIN, Texas -- Time to take all that talk of Baylor's "Big 12 takeover" seriously. Like they say in the Lone Star State, "It ain't bragging if it's the truth."
Robert Griffin III passed for two touchdowns and ran for another in leading No. 25 Baylor to a 30-22 win over reeling Texas on Saturday night, the Bears' first victory against the Longhorns since 1997.
I'm horrified. Can the Longhorns really suck this bad? Yes. Yes, the Longhorns really suck this bad. I'd hang my head in shame, but the bag I've put over it makes doing so problematic.
Sunday, October 31, 2010
FROM THE REAL ART SPORTS DESK
Posted by Ron at 11:21 PM
Here, have another Twilight Zone episode. From Wikipedia:
To Serve Man
"To Serve Man" is an episode of the television series The Twilight Zone.
The story is based on a short story, "To Serve Man" written by Damon Knight. The title is $$$$$$$$$$$$$$. The episode is one of the few instances in the series wherein the actor breaks the fourth wall and addresses the viewing audience at the episode's end.
Watch it here.
I used dollar signs in the excerpt above to blank out some plot spoilage, which Wikipedia is usually pretty good at avoiding in opening paragraphs: given the formulaic nature of most TW episodes, taking the audience in one direction until the last couple of minutes, then dashing viewer expectations on jagged rocks of WTF, it is extraordinarily important to not know how it ends. Anyway, I love this one, a really nice twist on the notion of benign super-advanced alien visitation. Indeed, if we ever are really visited by aliens, it's probably going to be some variation on what happens in "To Serve Man."
If you can get into the plot, the ending blows your mind.
So Happy Halloween to you. Enjoy.
Twilight Zone's use of super-advanced butthead aliens
beats Star Trek to the punch by five or six years.
Posted by Ron at 1:51 AM
Friday, October 29, 2010
Thursday, October 28, 2010
The Tholian Web
"The Tholian Web" was a third season episode of Star Trek: The Original Series. It is episode #64, production #64, first broadcast on November 15, 1968 and repeated August 19, 1969. It was written by Judy Burns and Chet Richards and directed by Herb Wallerstein.
It is the episode that introduced the aliens known as the Tholians. Captain Kirk is caught between dimensions while the Enterprise is being drained of energy by an anomalous region of space. The Tholians attempt to trap the Enterprise by spinning an energy web around the ship.
Watch it here (this is the remastered version, which is the only version I could find; actually, it looks pretty damned good).
Notes and pics:
* Cool, another starship.
* Spock: "Space itself is literally breaking up." WTF? Cool sci-fi shit.
* Scotty has one of my favorite haircuts of all time, the 60s "new short look."
* The Defiant is literally a ghost ship, invisible to sensors.
* Um...how can the transporter technician be "locked in on the bridge" if the Defiant doesn't appear on sensors? Okay, I'm a dork.
* Wow, space suits. I think this is the only time they appear in the original series.
* I've filled a page of notes and I'm still on the teaser.
* Nice shot of red shirt's hands around his captain's throat.
* Fab quiet creepy music here. Is this new third season stuff, or have I heard it before?
* The helmet radio sound effect gives the actors a sense of distance. With the music, situation, and dead Star Fleet personnel, this is all very nicely creepy, another good Halloween episode.
* Scotty in command!
* Chekov's horrified facial expressions work well here.
* No-dialogue corpse tableaus. Fucking great. This also invokes that "Doomsday Machine" sense of this all being the Enterprise gone horribly wrong.
* McCoy and the ghost body are fucking great.
* Sulu in command!
* Nothing like a cranky transporter to complicate the plot.
* Great Chekov screaming. I just love space insanity, and this one goes over the top with it.
* The Tholians, rarely used in the overall history of Trek, are totally great, and their arrival greatly ups the dramatic tension. I mean, it's like what else can go wrong?
* Okay, now the med tech's gone nuts, too. This is so great. EVERYBODY's gone space mad. This might be as cool, in this one respect, as "The Naked Time."
* McCoy's most epic fight...
*...of course, a girl saves him.
* This is literally space madness, caused by space itself. Nice.
* Spock: "The renowned Tholian punctuality." In addition to this being a good, typically dry line for our science officer, I like how the narrative just assumes that the Federation is familiar with the Tholians even though the audience has never heard of them. The lack of exposition on them is cool, too. Makes them mysterious, which works well in this ghost-ship context.
* McCoy totally tears into Spock. The Doctor really is a dick sometimes.
* Nice WTF moment when Uhura directs everybody's attention to the Tholians starting to build their web: "What is that?"
* Great freak out at Kirk's funeral, one of the greatest moments of the entire show.
* Okay, what's going on here?
1. Kirk's dead.
2. Space is literally dissolving.
3. The engines are out.
4. The crew is going insane.
5. The Tholians are snaring the ship in an energy web.
6. McCoy's Spock-hatred has gone into the stratosphere.
That's a lot of balls in the air, and they're pulling it all off extraordinarily well.
* Kirk speaks from the grave. I've always loved this moment.
* Nice to see Uhura at home. And the ghost sighting in the mirror is marvelous.
* The Tholian web is very cool in its weirdness.
* McCoy's bottles and tubes.
* Scotty seeing Kirk's ghost in engineering is creepy/great.
* Kirk's appearance on the bridge, especially Spock's approaching him, is another greatest moment.
* What the fuck is that alter thing in Spock's quarters? At any rate, the physics discussion with Scotty, complete with cool space chart on video monitor, is very old school science fiction, and completely welcome.
* Great exchange:
SCOTT: What is it?
MCCOY: It's a diluted theragen derivative.
SPOCK: Theragen? A nerve gas used by the Klingons.
SCOTT: Aye. And deadly, too. What are you thinking of, Doc? Are you trying to kill us all?
SPOCK: If I remember correctly, it caused fatality only when used in pure form.
MCCOY: That's right, and in this derivative, mixed with alcohol, it merely deadens certain nerve inputs to the brain.
SCOTT: Oh, well, any decent brand of Scotch will do that.
MCCOY: One good slug of this, and you can hit a man with phaser stun, and he'd never feel it or even know it.
SCOTT: Does it make a good mix with Scotch?
MCCOY: It should.
SCOTT: I'll let you know.
And Scotty exits with the entire bottle.
* Triox was only mentioned in "Amok Time." Nice to actually see it used.
* Love the triumphant and epic music at Kirk's return.
* This is so totally five stars. It's amazing how an episode I've known for nearly forty years can still blow me away. Kick ass. One of the best.
We're up to four episodes in this third season great run. That's four five or four star episodes in a row. How can they keep this up? I mean, they're operating on a shoestring budget here in the third season. They're on the verge of cancellation. Nothing like an against-all-odds swan song, if you ask me.
Posted by Ron at 11:34 PM
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
The Juan Williams Affair
The problem with the Juan Williams affair is not his comment to Fox News' Bill O'Reilly; that Muslims in full dress on airplanes make him nervous-- but Fox News itself. Over the course of many years, as the nation became more and more deeply immersed in its cloud, NPR bent over backwards to ensure its reports were free from taint of opinion irrespective of ideological origin. NPR performs a crucial service to the public despite a constant barrage of attacks from the right.
Juan Williams wandered off the NPR reservation when he signed up to be a commentator for Fox News. The reaction by NPR brass-- to fire him, for his comment to O'Reilly-- was wrong. He could have remained a pundit on NPR, like the late Daniel Schorr, so long as he never reported news again. The problem is that Williams is identified by NPR audiences as a journalist.
Fox is the most popular cable "news" outlet on television. It uses poorly trained journalists with bones to grind and grievances that deliberately stir fact and fiction and base emotions of fear and flight. When I listen to Fox News and its deliberate confusion of opinion and journalism and its effect on audiences, I think of feedlot cattle circling into narrowing chutes.
Yeah, this is basically my take on the whole thing.
I mean sure, I've got a couple of differences. For instance, the essay excerpted above is correct to observe that NPR could have retained Williams purely as an opinion guy. But the catch is that Williams would be a pundit who is made nervous on airplanes by "Muslims in full dress." That is, Williams would be a stupid and xenophobic pundit--thinking that all Muslims present a terrorism threat isn't too terribly far from thinking that all black people or all Hispanic people present a street gang threat. So yeah, NPR didn't have to fire him, but his comments on FOX made him pretty useless for a serious and trying-to-be-objective news organization.
But I wholeheartedly agree with the essay's main thrust. It's not so much Williams' comments on FOX that are unpardonable as that he was working for FOX at all.
At this point in my blogging history, going on eight years Thursday after next, I no longer feel compelled to explain why FOX News cannot in any way be considered what we imagine when we think of the word "news;" indeed, FOX has by now been clearly established as not much more than a right-wing agitprop machine poorly disguised as a cable news channel. No argument, this is fact. So any "journalist" who signs a contract with FOX severely undermines his credibility as a journalist. I mean, FOX is kind of the opposite of journalism: if you work for them, you're being paid to confuse people, rather than enlighten them.
NPR should have fired Williams the moment he started his relationship with Rupert Murdoch. To paraphrase Jesus, you cannot serve both truth and lies. Only within the bizarre corporate news media landscape, and this includes "public" NPR, which gets the majority of its funding from corporate sources, do major news organizations have to pretend that FOX is somehow legitimate, that, in some mysterious way, Murdoch's conservative propaganda vehicle is trying to do essentially the same thing as NPR, or the New York Times, or even Murdoch's recent purchase, the Wall Street Journal. That's why NPR needed some kind of pretext for dumping Williams. That's why they nailed him on what appears to be something of a technicality buried deeply inside the lectures and readings of ethics classes taught in journalism departments at colleges and universities. NPR is afraid to say that FOX is totally full of shit.
But whatever the reasons, I'm glad to see him go. I've always thought he's kind of lame.
Posted by Ron at 10:23 PM
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
From Talking Points Memo:
New Footage Emerges Of MoveOn Activist Stomped By Rand Paul Supporter
Just a quick update on the developing story out of Lexington, Kentucky, where a protester affiliated with MoveOn was dragged to the ground and stomped by Rand Paul supporters ahead of last night's Senate debate.
We understand that the victim has left the hospital, but we don't have official word on her condition. We'll try and get you an update this morning.
Both campaigns have now reacted to the attack, which was caught on camera at multiple angles.
"Violence of any kind has no place in our civil discourse and we urge supporters on all sides to be civil to one another as tensions rise heading toward this very important election," reads a statement from Paul's camp, which called the incident "incredibly unfortunate."
More here, complete with stomping video.
Well, that's very nice of Ayn Rand Paul to condemn the stomping, especially now that it turns out that the stomper wasn't simply a supporter: rather, this jack-sneakered thug was one of Paul's very own campaign officials, and he knew exactly what he was doing. It's almost funny that Paul calls for "all sides to be civil," when only one side, his side, is using violence as a political tool.
Conventional wisdom strongly suggests that Americans should never call their political opponents Nazis, unless, of course, those political opponents really are Nazis, which they sometimes are. The downside, the no-Nazi types say, is that the real Nazis were so horrific that it is always a gross exaggeration to compare anyone else to them. And American right-wingers who get the label often play upon that notion by observing, usually very angrily, that the real Nazis killed six million Jews, so they can't possibly be compared to Nazis. Never mind that American right-wing political points of view, such as neoliberalism, which has impoverished uncounted millions via wealth-favoring, ham-handed WTF and World Bank policies from Argentina in the 70s to India today, and neoconservatism, with its aggressive war making policies toward Iraq and Afghanistan, have also killed millions.
Why must the Nazi comparison always be a Holocaust comparison? I mean, we have our own holocausts, for that matter, slavery and the Native American genocide. Why is this so off limits? Well, it's not off limits for me. As legendary R&B bassist Donald "Duck" Dunn said in The Blues Brothers, "If the shit fits, wear it."
Indeed, this stomping incident in Kentucky comes straight out of the Nazi SA, a.k.a. the Brownshirts, playbook. Yes, Hitler was democratically elected to office, but that was made possible in large part by simple thuggish street violence: while the little corporal was wowing the nation with his grandiloquent oration, his Brownshirts were out in the streets beating the fuck out of Hitler's political opposition. With its leadership intimidated into silence, the German left had no voice or organization, leaving Nazism as the only viable political alternative to the fragile, bickering, feuding Weimar Republic.
While Rand Paul's stomping plan comes nowhere near the Brownshirts in terms of size or scope, it was extraordinarily similar in that the incident was: 1) planned, and 2) aimed at silencing political opposition. Apparently, the Paul camp is well aware that violence often works well in politics, especially in politically charged times. Hopefully, there's enough decency left in the American people that this will backfire, but you never can tell. There are some really angry and disaffected voters out there who may very well applaud this shit, just as Hitler's supporters applauded the Brownshirts. I guess we'll see.
There now. That wasn't so bad, was it? Nazi comparisons don't all have to be about gas chambers and concentration camps, do they? No, of course not. There's twenty years of political history there, from, say, 1925 to 1945, from which we can draw understanding. And if we're smart, we can arrest this shit now, well before we have to start with the Holocaust comparisons for real. If you know what I mean.
Posted by Ron at 8:12 PM
STUPID SHIT WE DO FOR CAPITALISM
Sick Leave as National Policy
Unmentioned in the public health report is what Human Resources refers to as “shadow workers”—people who are under the weather but reluctantly drag themselves to work to avoid losing money, yet are too sick or lethargic to perform their jobs adequately. They are there physically, but that’s about all. As a consequence, productivity declines. So does work place safety.
The overwhelming majority of restaurant workers don’t have sick leave. Given that the restaurant industry is notoriously non-union, and relies heavily on young, transient and immigrant labor, this is not surprising. Restaurants also lead the pack in NLRB complaints and violations, so why would they be expected to offer anything as enlightened as sick pay?
But what is surprising—and somewhat alarming—is the report by the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC-United) revealing that almost two-thirds of restaurant employees admit to having “cooked or served food” while sick, which makes it a genuine public health issue.
That last bit is surprising: my personal estimate, admittedly based on experience in the restaurant industry rather than on any real scientific study, is that everybody who has "cooked or served food" in a restaurant has done so while sick. Sometimes sick as a fucking dog. Me too. No point in denying it because I don't really feel too terribly responsible for it. This is just how the industry does business. This is American capitalism. No fucking way I'm taking the rap for American capitalism.
The above linked essay focuses on paid sick leave in the US, how most workers don't have it even though something like three quarters of workers worldwide live in nations that guarantee it, and how bad the situation is for both workers and the capitalist's bottom line, all of which is obviously true.
But my situation is a bit different: I have a family safety net. If I miss a few shifts because I'm sick, no big deal; my well-off and generous Dad will give me the money to make rent. No, I work sick for different reasons, although I have no doubt that most of my fellow workers aren't as lucky as me. But really, in the restaurant industry, it makes no difference. You come to work sick because that's how management wants it.
If you call in to tell the boss that you're ill and can't make it, you are met with immediate and strong skepticism and pressure. "Oh, you're sick, are you? How much did you have to drink last night?" Or "Are you sure? We really, really, really need you tonight. You're really putting us into a major bind." Or "You were sick last month. This is becoming too much of a pattern."
Once you've made it past the first barrage of gate-keeping behavior, you have to deal with the second: most restaurants insist on some sort of doctor's note before they'll allow you to start working again. Because most restaurants don't offer health insurance to their hourly/tipped employees, this means, in addition to the hassle of getting into a doctor's office quickly enough to avoid losing a week's wages, you have to pay anywhere between eighty and a hundred bucks, more than a day's average pay, just to get back on the schedule. My restaurant, seemingly more progressive than others, offers a totally shitty health insurance plan that doesn't do much more than pay for a couple of office visits, so, at least, the back-to-work cost is minimized. Slightly. Either way, without insurance, or with shitty pauper's insurance, the institutional barriers erected against calling in sick just aren't worth climbing.
At a staff meeting last weekend we learned that the corporate office had erected a third barrier: if you call in sick, you cannot work again for seventy two hours. And you still have to have your doctor's note. So you can't simply miss a day if your nose is running like a faucet. You've got to miss three days. I just don't want to ask my Dad for that kind of money. And like I said above, most of my comrades aren't over-educated bourgeois dilettante loafers like me. They work for a living.
So most of us just come to work sick as shit. I've had the flu; I've had horrible colds. I've had nasty stomach viruses. I've been telling tables about today's special while I start feeling snot start to run out of my nose, making me hurry through my explanation of grilled red fish with lemon butter so I can run to the bathroom to blow my nose. I've seen many of my fellow waiters just say "fuck it" and blow their noses right next to the ice bin or silverware. Without washing their hands. Same with the cooks on the line.
I have absolutely no doubt that I've gotten customers sick. I mean, impossible to say how many, but I'm certain that I'm spreading my germs all over the place despite my frantic efforts to wash my hands and breathe away from people's faces. I'm fucking sick, after all, and it's really fucking difficult to stay home. What the hell am I supposed to do?
But why am I complaining? I'm sacrificing for capitalism, America's holy economic order. What does it matter if I'm spreading swine flu? It expands the economy. For that matter, why is it a problem if I destroy the Gulf coast fishing industry with irresponsible offshore oil drilling? Because, really, it's the same issue. Economists call it an externality, a cost imposed on a third party which is not part of an economic transaction. In the restaurant's case, the transaction is between me and my employer: the customer gets hit with the externality. In BP's case the transaction is between the oil company and consumers of oil, a category which also ironically includes many people hit by the externality we've been calling an oil spill.
Either way, it's stupid shit we do for capitalism.
Posted by Ron at 1:41 AM
Monday, October 25, 2010
FROM THE REAL ART SPORTS DESK
EVERYBODY I LOVE LOSES
From the AP via ESPN:
Iowa State scores upset after forcing four Garrett Gilbert turnovers
At this rate, underdogs are going to love playing at Texas: the bigger the dog, the bigger the win.
Iowa State became the latest to drop a shocking home loss on the Longhorns (No. 19 BCS, No. 22 AP) with a 28-21 victory Saturday in a remarkable turnaround for a Cyclones team that had given up 120 points the previous two games.
Again from the AP via ESPN:
Cam Newton sets SEC, team records, leads Auburn to win
Cam Newton and Auburn (No. 4 BCS, No. 5 AP) are the last unbeaten team in the SEC. Not even LSU's defense could slow them down.
With Newton's standard mix of power and elusiveness, a huge play from Onterio McCalebb and a stingy performance from Nick Fairley and the defense, Auburn survived for a 24-17 victory over No. 6 LSU on Saturday.
Y'know...I don't really want to talk about this.
Okay, I'll say one thing. The Baylor Bears are now ranked in the AP top 25. And the Longhorns aren't. This is sick. Just sick. Someone please remind me why I'm a football fan. Well, here's one reason. Still, I'm now in that rare and horrible but familiar enough place in which the Longhorn nation finds itself from time to time: measuring a season's success by whether or not we beat the Aggies. If it all comes down to that, well, you already know you're having an awful season.
Okay, that's enough. I'm going to try to think about something more uplifting. Like politics. Or car crashes.
Posted by Ron at 12:02 AM
Saturday, October 23, 2010
What Happened to Change We Can Believe In?
From the New York Times, former chief theater critic and current culture and politics columnist Frank Rich explains the apparent failure of the Obama administration:
PRESIDENT Obama, the Rodney Dangerfield of 2010, gets no respect for averting another Great Depression, for saving 3.3 million jobs with stimulus spending, or for salvaging GM and Chrysler from the junkyard. And none of these good deeds, no matter how substantial, will go unpunished if the projected Democratic bloodbath materializes on Election Day. Some are even going unremembered. For Obama, the ultimate indignity is the Times/CBS News poll in September showing that only 8 percent of Americans know that he gave 95 percent of American taxpayers a tax cut.
The reasons for his failure to reap credit for any economic accomplishments are a catechism by now: the dark cloud cast by undiminished unemployment, the relentless disinformation campaign of his political opponents, and the White House’s surprising ineptitude at selling its own achievements. But the most relentless drag on a chief executive who promised change we can believe in is even more ominous. It’s the country’s fatalistic sense that the stacked economic order that gave us the Great Recession remains not just in place but more entrenched and powerful than ever.
No matter how much Obama talks about his “tough” new financial regulatory reforms or offers rote condemnations of Wall Street greed, few believe there’s been real change. That’s not just because so many have lost their jobs, their savings and their homes. It’s also because so many know that the loftiest perpetrators of this national devastation got get-out-of-jail-free cards, that too-big-to-fail banks have grown bigger and that the rich are still the only Americans getting richer.
Obama's failure was preordained.
Indeed, the Democratic Party's failure was preordained, if you take it all the way back to the party's embrace of Bill Clinton and the Democratic Leadership Council's decision to abandon the liberal base by staking out slightly more moderate Republican positions in order to secure big business campaign donations. From that moment on, the Democrats became, in practice, virtual clones of the GOP on almost everything except the so-called social issues, effectively neutering them when it comes to taking on entrenched economic domination of the nation's democratic process. From that moment on, it became impossible for the Democrats to elect to office, let alone nominate, a liberal for president.
And only a liberal has the intestinal fortitude to take on those entrenched economic forces.
Yeah yeah, I know, Obama was "the most liberal senator," and now, in the White House, the wild-eyed socialist who's spent hundreds of billions of your tax dollars. Surely he's a liberal, right? Well, no, he's not. That "most liberal" moniker was based on a study that looked at Democratic voting records in the Senate. The study decided that voting with Democrats most of the time means "liberal," which is fucked up because it assumes that the majority of Democrats are voting liberal most of the time, which they do not--remember, the DLC long ago turned the party into Republican Lite; sure, they still support abortion and gay rights and all that, but on the important issues, on the economy, there's just not much of a difference between the two parties. And Obama's spending as president has been mostly a continuation of Bush administration policies, you know, stuff aimed at keeping the current Washington-dominating corporate and financial structure from falling apart--yeah, Republicans bitch heavily about it now, but did the same thing when they were in power, and will continue to do the same thing when they regain power.
Obama is not a liberal, and only a liberal has the point of view necessary to actually change the game.
Indeed, Obama, who, while conservative, is not so zealously doctrinaire as his 2008 opponent John McCain, was essentially anointed by the American corporate and Wall Street elite to be the savior of the "free market" system that had been ravaged by koo-koo far right extremism during the Bush years. And he's actually done amazingly well in his capacity as corporate savior. Unemployment continues to decimate the nation's rank-and-file citizenry, but corporate profits are up, the economy expands again, and the rich are taking sighs of relief. Obama is the business and finance sector's savior.
Unfortunately for Obama, and the nation as a whole, the system our President valiantly saved is unstable, and cannot continue to provide economic benefits to most Americans. Indeed, the system is now fueled in large part by preying on the economic fortunes of most Americans. If you define "middle class" by the ability for a family with a single bread winner to be able to send their kids to college and go to Florida on vacation every other summer, which is what "middle class" meant back in the 50s and 60s, then the middle class is very close to being a memory. The neoliberal, right-wing, "free market" system has literally eaten up the middle class, fattening the wealthy, forcing everybody else to max out their credit cards, which also fattens the wealthy.
This is the system Obama has saved.
That's why he gets no credit for his many legislative accomplishments. They're not even window dressing: Obama has shored up, for the moment, the very system that has put hundreds of thousands out of work, the very system that ran up the housing market to absurd bubble-highs, offered easy and often fraudulent credit to unsuspecting home buyers, and then used its profound political influence to secure gargantuan masses of bailout money while foreclosing on countless individuals who were simply pursuing the American dream. Obama saved that system. He doesn't deserve thanks; he owes us an explanation.
All of this is bad enough. But when you consider the fact that Obama's political alternative in the 2012 elections will be a psycho Republican who will soak the nation in gasoline and start playing with matches, it becomes clear that the American political system is utterly incapable of changing the nation's economic trajectory. That is, no one can save us. Not the Democrats, and certainly not the Republicans. We're on a one way ride to pathetic and painful third world status, a fast-track with the GOP, but only slightly slower under Democratic leadership.
Either way, I don't wish our future on anyone.
Posted by Ron at 11:10 PM
Friday, October 22, 2010
Thursday, October 21, 2010
The Howling Man
The story is told in a flashback by an American called David Ellington. While on a walking trip through post-World War I Europe, Ellington becomes lost, is drenched by rain and seeks shelter in a nearby castle. He is told to leave immediately, but he collapses, shivering.
Upon waking inside the castle, Ellington hears a wolf-like howl and goes to investigate. In the bowels of the castle he finds a bedraggled, but apparently cultured and intelligent man in a cell. The man claims to be a prisoner of an insane religious order, locked up because he kissed his sweetheart.
Watch it here.
So, as I mentioned last night, no Star Trek this week. Instead, groove on this fabulous but not well known episode of the Twilight Zone, featuring Carradine clan patriarch John Carradine, as head of that "insane religious order." Great stuff.
Posted by Ron at 11:27 PM
TWO FROM ALTERNET
I hardly ever do these anymore, which means I'm not really doing anything terribly interesting with my life lately. Anyway, I'm busy tonight, at least, tomorrow too, so no Star Trek until next week.
But tonight, for your reading pleasure, I offer without comment these two recent essays from AlterNet.
The GOP's Refusal to Understand the Basic Science
of Climate Change Threatens the Whole Country
One of the defining characteristics of the current Republican Party is the near-unanimous denial of the science behind the threat of global warming pollution. "The GOP is stampeding toward an absolutist rejection of climate science that appears unmatched among major political parties around the globe, even conservative ones," writes the National Journal's Ron Brownstein. Many of the candidates -- whom Daily Kos blogger RL Miller has dubbed the "climate zombies" -- are signatories of the Koch Industries' Americans For Prosperity No Climate Tax pledge and the FreedomWorks' Contract From America. The second plank of the Contract From America is to "Reject Cap & Trade: Stop costly new regulations that would increase unemployment, raise consumer prices, and weaken the nation's global competitiveness with virtually no impact on global temperatures." The Koch oil billionaires have pumped $1,125,400 into the campaign accounts of congressional candidates and $332,722 to state-level candidates, 87 percent to Republicans, and have contributed $1 million to the Proposition 23 campaign to kill California's AB32 climate legislation.
Click here for the rest.
Media Blackout In the Age of Obama
But even when print media reigned supreme, they seldom presented a nuanced portrayal of black people. Many white Americans’ perception of black people was deliberately distorted by a tradition of media bias.
That bias is part of a deep-rooted American narrative of racial hierarchy and privilege. In fact, anti-black biases are in the institutional DNA of American media.
What exactly do I mean by that? Debasing and dehumanizing black people was virtually obligatory in a nation dependent on an economic foundation of slavery. Racist assumptions became a necessary component of U.S. culture for more than two centuries. They are so deeply embedded in our institutions and attitudes that they escape detection.
This happens, for instance, when we look at our jails and see a sea of black faces. We are looking at the criminal justice system through a media prism filled with racial assumptions—particularly the idea that black people somehow are predisposed to crime. We are similarly blinded by biases when considering racial disparities in education, healthcare and employment.
Posted by Ron at 1:06 AM
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
DAVID VITTER IS LYING RACIST WHITE TRASH
So the junior senator from my state is up for reelection. We already know that David Vitter, who often eats in the restaurant where I work when he's back home from Washington, is a sexually deviant hypocrite who sleeps with prostitutes one day, and condemns homosexuals and adulterers the next. We also know that he encourages wild right-wing bullshit conspiracy theorists to the detriment of the nation, even though he probably doesn't buy into such wild ideas himself. We're also pretty sure he likes to wear diapers for sexual pleasure--not that there's anything wrong with that.
In short, he's one fucked up asshole who really has no business being the parish dog catcher, let alone a member of the United States Senate. Otherwise, Vitter's a rather bland and intellectually incurious country club Republican who panders to his party's social conservatives, which is bad enough, but there are so many politicians who fit this category, it's barely worth mentioning. No, Vitter's big crime is that he's a lying, hypocritical piece of shit.
But this lying and racist political ad (hat tip to Hullabaloo) surprised even me:
Never mind the fact that the recent uptick in Latino migration to South Louisiana stems directly from the Bush administration's cynical importation of immigrant workers to the region in order to undercut Katrina reconstruction wages for African-Americans, and can therefore in no way be blamed on Democrats. I mean, it's bad enough to blame the Democrats for something the Republicans definitely did. But what's jaw-dropping here is the totally racist caricature of countless Hispanic men scurrying through a hole like rats in order to menace our precious white way of life.
I had no idea that Vitter is such racist white trash.
I mean, you know, I guess I shouldn't be so surprised. Vitter's from Metairie, where I live these days: this is a community that exists primarily because white New Orleanians didn't want their kids to go to school with black kids back during the civil rights era; this is a community that sent a KKK leader to the state legislature back in the 80s. Old school Southern racism is alive and well here. And this is Vitter's home. Of course he's a racist piece of shit.
Hey, remember this little gem from the 80s?
Vitter's ad is hardly better. No progress in twenty years. I know I vowed after the John Kerry debacle back in '04 to never vote for a Democrat again, but you know, all politics is local, and Vitter is such scum, I'm going back on my word.
Melancon for Senator!
The Hispanic man according to David Vitter.
Posted by Ron at 1:06 AM
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
TAX CUTS WON'T DO A DAMNED THING TO IMPROVE THIS ECONOMY
From the Washington Post courtesy of Eschaton:
U.S. companies buy back stock in droves as they hold record levels of cash
Sitting on these unprecedented levels of cash, U.S. companies are buying back their own stock in droves. So far this year, firms have announced they will purchase $273 billion of their own shares, more than five times as much compared with this time last year, according to Birinyi Associates, a stock market research firm. But the rise in buybacks signals that many companies are still hesitant to spend their cash on the job-generating activities that could produce economic growth.
Some companies are buying back shares partly because they don't want to invest in developing new products or services while consumer demand remains weak, analysts said.
"They don't know what they want to do with all the cash they're sitting on," said Zachary Karabell, president of RiverTwice Research.
But critics say buybacks are a shortsighted way for companies to offload cash when they would be better off investing for the future.
"It's totally wasted money," said William Lazonick, a professor at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell and director of its Center for Industrial Competitiveness. "It does not do anything long-term for companies."
Lazonick added that executives like buybacks because they boost their own stock options.
This really is a case study in just how fucking retarded the right-wing cure-all for economic woes, tax cuts, really is. Just think this through. Conservatives aggressively assert that businesses are scared shitless to invest in an economy where there is so much "uncertainty" what with stimulus spending and whatnot, or something to that effect: what we need, they say, are tax cuts for business and the rich, which will then be invested in the economy, which will then expand because of all the new tax-cut spawned investment, which will create new jobs, and give everybody chocolate bunnies and edible baby Jesuses.
But businesses already have butt-loads of cash that they're either not using at all or spending in order to buy back stock so as to fatten already fat CEOs. Needless to say, giving them more money will simply result in more of the same, more idle cash in the bank, or more executive fattening. Tax cuts will do nothing to improve the economy, but they will deprive the federal government of much needed revenue, which is down simply because tax revenue goes down when there is less economic activity. So, not only are business tax cuts in this economy totally useless in terms of economic expansion, they're just fucking stupid in terms of deficit reduction.
The bottom line here, as economist Paul Krugman relentlessly observes in his New York Times column, is that business avoidance of spending isn't because of "uncertainty," a concocted and bogus narrative created by right-wingers for the sole purpose of justifying their radical tax-cuts-for-the-wealthy agenda: rather, businesses aren't spending because demand is so low. That is, consumers don't have enough money to buy the stuff businesses produce and sell. So there's just no use in business expansion when businesses are experiencing a great deal of overcapacity.
The obvious answer, then, is to improve demand. And that means more stimulus. Lots more stimulus, not that half-hearted attempt that Obama called a stimulus last year. We need to spend on the scale of WWII, like drunken sailors, doling out a much bigger percentage of the GDP than conventional wisdom is comfortable contemplating.
What's particularly disturbing is the disconnect between the reported facts and the wonky political conversation about economics. The entire corporate mainstream press knows it's a demand problem, but they continue to funnel this conservative bullshit about "uncertainty" and tax cuts without questioning it. If news organizations were doing their damned jobs, everytime some fuck-ass Republican spews his lying manure about tax cuts, reporters would throw rhetorical pies in his face until he shuts the fuck up.
Unfortunately, that's not the world we live in.
Posted by Ron at 1:26 AM
Monday, October 18, 2010
FROM THE REAL ART SPORTS DESK
LONGHORNS POUND CORNHOLERS; LSU BESTS MIDDLE SCHOOL TEAM
From the AP via ESPN:
Texas holds off Taylor Martinez to upset Nebraska
Texas (4-2, 2-1 Big 12) came as a 9 1/2-point underdog after two straight losses. But the Longhorns surprised Nebraska (5-1, 1-1) by turning Gilbert loose in the run game for the first time this season.
Though no one will confuse Gilbert the runner with Texas greats Vince Young or Colt McCoy, the sophomore picked up 71 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. He flummoxed the Huskers with quarterback draws and scrambles.
"We've been encouraging Garrett to make yards with his feet. He did that today," Brown said. "He maybe doesn't look like Vince or Colt when he's running the ball, but he's effective. We've got to keep him doing that. It's better for us when he can move his feet."
Garrett said he has no problem letting his legs do the work.
"I feel comfortable running it," he said. "It was probably just a little bit bigger part of the game plan this week. The offensive line did a great job of opening up some creases and we were able to find some yards."
The Longhorns stymied a Nebraska offense that had been averaging 494 yards a game, holding the Huskers to just 202 yards.
Again from the AP via ESPN:
Michael Ford's first career TDs seal win for No. 9 LSU
"I didn't think we played with a lot of emotion," Miles said after LSU took a 32-10 victory over the Cowboys on Saturday night that, for much of the contest, was closer than the final score indicated.
"If you look in college football, you can see that there's some other teams that played emotional games the week before and didn't quite play their best" this week, Miles said, referring to losses Saturday by South Carolina and Florida. "Maybe the timing was right for us to play McNeese and play as poorly as we did and win."
LSU (7-0) needed a pair of touchdowns from Stevan Ridley to take its first lead, then Michael Ford added the first two scoring runs of his career in the second half as Tigers eventually wore down feisty McNeese.
They'll need a much better performance next week against No. 7 Auburn, and the fans in Tiger Stadium seemed to be making that very point by booing more than once.
Okay, this was a good football weekend for me. Everybody won, the Saints, the Texans, LSU, and, of course, my beloved Longhorns. And I liked what I saw from the 'Horns. I don't like so much what I saw from LSU, but at least they weren't sloppy. Sluggish is probably the best way to describe the Tigers' play against the junior high school team they faced at Death Valley on Saturday. I'll take sluggish, which is much easier to fix, over the chronically mistake-ridden WTF game strategy that has become something of a Les Miles earmark during his tenure in Baton Rouge. I'm optimistic about Auburn. No way the other Tigers are going to put up sixty five points on my Tigers. LSU's defense is for real.
Unfortunately, it remains to be seen how real LSU's offense is. We'll probably win it in the last five minutes or something. I continue to be worried about Alabama.
But the Longhorns made me quite happy. I mean, watching the game it was completely clear that Nebraska was ranked too high: the Cornholers are just not worthy of the top five. And, for that matter, Texas shouldn't have been dropped from the top twenty five after losing to OU--I'm really starting to have some suspicion about the AP poll. So, I don't think this is as dramatic a victory as it appears to be. Nonetheless, this was a big deal. Nebraska, while not top five material, is a good football team, and Texas played them in Lincoln. Not an easy thing to do even if you really do deserve to be in the top five.
I was particularly pleased to see Gilbert so successful running the ball. This is very likely the key to opening up the rest of the game for Texas, as it has been for the last seven or eight seasons with Colt McCoy and Vince Young before him. Of course, it didn't hurt at all to have the Longhorn offensive line totally dominating Nebraska's defensive line--this would have been impossible last year what with that man-mountain the Cornholers had installed in the middle of the field. But that guy's off in the pros now, and once again, well, here's a sidebar factoid from the AP article:
The Texas defense held Nebraska to 202 yards as the Longhorns beat the Huskers for the ninth time in 10 games since joining the Big 12.Heh. Nine of ten games went to Texas. I fucking hated Nebraska back in the 90s when the Southwest Conference fell apart and Texas joined the Big 12. And then, against all odds, we beat them to win the first conference championship. And we just kept on beating them. For years. I still dislike these corn-fed Midwestern bungholes, but, after all those losses, I don't really hate them anymore. Kind of hard to take them seriously. Nebraska's bolting from the Big 12 next year to join the Big 10, but it is absolutely certain that for the years the Cornholers and Texas played together in the same conference, the Longhorns had their number.
Go Big Red. And don't let the door hit you on the way out. Or do let the door hit you. I don't care. You suck and can't beat Texas.
Hook 'em 'Horns!
Posted by Ron at 2:06 AM
Sunday, October 17, 2010
Teacher Dismissed for Talking About Gay Marriage
From the Daily Kos via AlterNet:
A gay student teacher was dismissed from a suburban Portland, Oregon, school after discussing gay marriage with a fourth-grader. Seth Stambaugh is enrolled in the Master of Education program at Portland’s Lewis and Clark College, the practicum of which had him student teaching at the Beaverton School District’s Sexton Mountain elementary school. As reported by KGWNews:
He was leading a writing lesson when a fourth-grader asked him if he was married. Stambaugh said no. The student then asked why. Stambaugh replied that it would be illegal for him to get married because he would be choosing to marry another man. The student then asked if Stambaugh hanged out with guys and he said yes.Stambaugh was told that his comments were inappropriate, and Lewis and Clark was told that Stambaugh would not be allowed to return.
Beaverton School District spokeswoman Maureen Wheeler said that the district honors diversity, including sexual orientation. Wheeler said she could not talk specifically about the conversation, but noted it took place with “a fourth-grader, and that’s a nine-year-old.”Sure. The district doesn’t discriminate, it just seems to think that young children need to be protected from knowing about something against which it doesn’t discriminate. Perhaps someone should ask Wheeler why the child’s age seemed relevant.
“We do not discriminate,” she said. The district has gay and lesbian employees and high school clubs that promote diversity, including sexual orientation, she said.
Right. This is, in fact, discrimination. Stambaugh got fucked. What's arguably more fucked up, however, is this unquestioned notion that there are just some topics and ideas to which children should not be exposed. Usually the taboo nature of such topics has far more to do with parental neuroses than it has to do with age-appropriateness.
Years ago, back in the early 90s when I was a student at the University of Texas, the school's gay and lesbian organization had a "kiss-in" event on the Main Mall. Simple concept: same sex couples would publicly kiss each other in order to demonstrate that social decorum disallows gay people from engaging in innocent activities enjoyed by straight people constantly, always, all the time. The student newspaper, the Daily Texan, played along, and the next day printed on the front page, above the fold, a photo of two men kissing each other for the event. Many students were outraged, and the letters-to-the-editor section was a place of indignant hetero-anger for nearly a week. "Why should we have to see this?" people wrote. "Sure, I don't care what they do in the privacy of their own homes, but this is obscene, and the Texan is just irresponsible for running such a picture." Or something to that effect.
Years later, a few years into this century, I saw Bill O'Reilly interviewing a lesbian activist of some sort, asking her why lesbian women were publicly kissing each other at WNBA games. Great response: "Well, Bill, they love each other." Bill acted as though she didn't understand his point, "I just don't know what I'm supposed to tell my kids about this stuff." She acted as though she didn't understand his point, "Tell your kids whatever you want, Bill." Then they cut to a commercial, and did not pick up the subject again after the break.
The point is that when gay people hold hands in public, or hug each other, or, god forbid, kiss each other in front of children, a substantial segment of the straight population here in the US reacts as though they had seen men wearing nothing but leather chaps pull out a vat of Crisco and start to fist each other's ass right out in the street. When straight people do these things, no one notices. I mean, seriously. No one even notices. Same thing with talking about relationships. Straight people talk about their significant others all the fucking time. They talk about getting married and people congratulate them. Elders harass youth about when they're going to find a good woman, or man, and settle down. Politicians get caught screwing prostitutes and pull their wives out to the podium in front of the reporters like they were props in a play.
When you're straight, you're expected to be in a relationship. You're expected to talk about it, and you're hassled when you don't. And you're rewarded when you do. But if you're gay and talk about your relationship, about how you're finally moving in together, or how you went shopping together, or how happy you are because you're in love, you might as well be talking about sucking cock at the glory hole.
Needless to say, this is fucked up. It's also strong testament to the prurient nature of straight people in our society. That is, if straight people are uncomfortable hearing gay people talking about their relationships, that's their problem. A peck on the cheek is obviously not the same thing as bare backing. If you equate the two, then that's your problem, you sleazy perverted dirty piece of shit.
Get the fuck over it.
So, the bottom line here is that the nine years olds who heard Stambaugh casually mention that he was gay, which means that he is legally forbidden to marry a person he loves, it is extraordinarily likely that their reaction was not the fucked up perverted kind experienced by their teachers. Probably more like, "Oh, okay." Kids need to be taught this stuff. Gay marriage is a huge social issue, and kids, even four and five year olds, already have half the story deeply embedded in their understanding of how the world works--they already get "mommy and daddy," already understand the strong role that coupling plays in our society. It is educationally irresponsible to shut down the conversation because homophobic parents, teachers, and administrators like to picture hot and slimy wet sodomy when they think about gay people. This travesty in Oregon is unacceptable bullshit, and it is probably much more widespread than one might imagine.
Sigh. It is very sad to think that the schools are some of the most censored places in the country.
Posted by Ron at 2:17 AM
Friday, October 15, 2010
"The Empath" is a third season episode of Star Trek: The Original Series, and was broadcast December 6, 1968. It is episode #67, production #63, written by Joyce Muskat and directed by John Erman.
Overview: While visiting a doomed planet, the landing party is subject to torturous experiments by powerful aliens.
Watch it here.
Notes and pics:
* Good teaser. They watch what happened to the missing Federation scientists three months earlier on a TV screen, then it happens to them immediately afterward.
* Nice touch, fading to the credits over the dust print of Kirk's missing body on the floor.
* Very cool and theatrical black box set.
* The Empath, played by the amazing Kathryn Hays, moves like a dancer or mime.
* Which makes sense because her race doesn't speak: physical communication, body language, necessarily become all important.
* Calling her "Gem" was confusing to me as a child. McCoy's Southern accent makes it sound like "Jim," and I thought that the Doctor was naming her after the Captain for some reason. Actually, it would have been a nice moment if Kirk had given McCoy a brief glance or something to acknowledge the similarity.
But the missed moment doesn't hurt, really.
* Butthead alien mad scientist types in shiny dresses who use human beings as test subjects. This hearkens back to the Talosians in "The Menagerie." Nice touch.
* Good scene with the Empath healing Kirk's cut.
* This is all very theatrical.
* Cool mad scientist lab.
* Oh, this is fucking fabulous! How can you not like seeing dead bodies in giant test tubes? This is so very 1940s comic book.
* Hmm. Spock took this guy out pretty easily...
* Oh, I see. It was a trick!
* I love the weird illusion-Scotty, smiling and waving like a drugged up moron.
* Just as I love the slo-mo Kirk trying to reach his alien tormentors. Really, if there's one thing that typifies the third season, it's all the psychedelia and trippiness. I guess that simply reflects the year in which the season was produced, 1968-1969, but it is entirely welcome.
* Gem kind of reminds me of that mute character in Brecht's Mother Courage and Her Children. Did I already point out how totally theatrical this episode is?
* Scotty in command!
* Shirtless Kirk in bondage. Reminds me of "Gamesters of Triskelion," but far more creepy. This wouldn't be a bad episode to watch on Halloween.
* Speaking of which, the aliens from time to time come off as creepy haunted house tour guides, what with their affected sense of narrating everything all the time.
* Healing Kirk: Hays playing Gem is just astonishing here, an incredible performance, fabulous facial expressions, marvelous movement. This affected me emotionally, for sure. She invokes the abstract notions of pain and sorrow, and gets it into your gut, without uttering a single word.
* The aliens like to stand in creepy tableau.
* Spock stands a "sixty three percent chance of permanent insanity" if Kirk chooses him to be the next alien test subject. I say bring on the insanity!
* McCoy: "I'm a doctor, not a coal miner." Glad they were able to get one of these in.
* McCoy hypos the Captain. Glad they got that in, too. It is, after all, his weapon of choice. McCoy then hypos Spock, leaving the Doctor as the only choice for the alien experiments. McCoy finally gets to play the martyr.
* Unlike with Kirk, the aliens keep McCoy's shirt on. I guess that's just as well.
* Okay, really cool scene when the aliens offer their justification for what they're doing, which complicates the morality here tremendously. And while they go on and on, Gem silently struggles with whether or not she should sacrifice herself to save the Doctor.
* Heh. The sadist aliens commend Kirk and Spock for their morality. Nice irony.
* Very post-modern, and several years before the notion had really become well known: Kirk, Spock, and the aliens watch and comment on the interplay between Gem and the dying McCoy, while we, the viewers, watch them being watched.
* Silly Kirk! You can't simply push your way out of a force field!
* Classic Kirk speech trying to persuade the aliens to save the Doctor.
* Nice WTF exit of Gem and the aliens: they sort of recede into the blackness.
* This is probably the longest closing bridge conversation of the show's run.
* Scotty: "Have you not heard the tale of the merchant?" No, Scotty, nobody's heard the tale of the merchant. Why don't you tell us?
* Four stars. All the theatricality, the classic sci-fi aliens and their twisted sadistic experiments, the 60s psychedelia, the moralizing and philosophy, and most importantly, the gripping performance of Kathryn Hays make this episode a lot of fun. Especially Gem, who nails it to the wall without a single line. Really, she's one of the best guest stars the show had, right up there with Ricardo Montalban and others.
Hey, that makes three four star episodes in a row. Looks like we've got a great run here a third of the way through the third season!
Posted by Ron at 12:33 AM