NEW YEAR'S CAT BLOGGING
Frankie and Sammy
Be sure to check out Modulator's Friday Ark for more cat blogging pics!
Friday, December 31, 2010
Thursday, December 30, 2010
Indiana Snow Penises Given Generous Local News Coverage
From the Huffington Post news wire:
Local news station WLFI 18 filed this generous report about a neighborhood that was quite upset with one house's lawn decorations: snow sculptures representing male genitalia.
Neighbors who called the police said they "showed up, laughed and left" but later investigation revealed that under a state statute for "obscene matter" the creators of the snow penises could have received misdemeanor charges if they hadn't taken them down.
Who would have known a couple of suggestively shaped snow piles could cause this much of an uproar? We don't know how detailed these things were, but the sculptor must have made them pretty life-like to offend so many people.
More here, with video! (Unfortunately, the video blurs out the ice penises.)
Yet another sigh. Sigh.
So of course people are having problems with artistic representations of the penis. No surprise there. Our entire culture has been penis-phobic for centuries, excluding certain large pockets of gay culture here and there, which glorify the penis for their own reasons. So I guess I'm not outraged about the outrage as much as I'm bummed that the Puritans continue to have the last word on the topic.
If you click through and watch the news report, you'll see what I'm talking about. They haul out an archetypal ten year old boy who laments that he was forced to look at ice penises. They interview a soccer mom who seems more sad about what she obviously sees as a sick culture than angry, when the irony here is that, when you subtract capitalist exploitation, which forces sexuality on us for the sole purpose of making lots of money, we continue to be, as a people, pretty much scared of the cock. That is, the sickness in our culture is sexual repression rather than sexual abandon.
The local news station producing the report interviewed exactly zero people who were concerned about freedom of speech, artistic expression, or rampant unhealthy sexual attitudes. I guess such ideas are fine for the university, but not for general consumption.
Really, it's no big deal. The penises will, after all, eventually melt.
Posted by Ron at 11:13 PM
NO STAR TREK THIS WEEK
I'm taking a break here between Christmas and New Years's because, well, everybody else appears to be taking a break. Star Trek will be back in its regular time slot on January 7th.
Posted by Ron at 2:26 PM
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Fox analyst Carlson: Vick 'should have been 'executed'
From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:
Carlson was guest hosting for Sean Hannity's show on Fox News Channel on Tuesday night when he made the remarks. He led a panel discussion about President Barack Obama commending the owner of the Eagles for giving Vick a second chance after his release from prison. Vick served 18 months in federal prison for running a dogfighting ring.
Carlson says, "Michael Vick killed dogs, and he did (it) in a heartless and cruel way." He added, "I think personally he should have been executed for that."
A bit more here.
Yes, I'm also dubious of Vick's miraculous repentance. I mean, after all, if I had the potential for multi-million dollar glory in the NFL waiting for me after some time in the slammer, I'd say and do all the right things, too. But really, Carlson says Vick should have died for his crimes? Pumped full of poison for abusing dogs? I don't think even PETA advocates that kind of thing. And neither does Carlson, really, who is definitely a conservative, but not the kind of nutbag usually employed by Fox. I think it's pretty obvious that he's pumping it up for Hannity's audience of inbred banjo players.
Nonetheless, this is disturbing for a couple of reasons. First, Carlson's rhetoric fits into the overall pattern of Fox personalities and other right-wing psychos calling down death on liberals; I have no idea what Vick's personal politics are, but he is black, which also means "liberal" to these people, who are often racist, too--I wonder how much post-conviction animosity they would have had toward the star quarterback if he was white. Second, and this is what really pisses me off, why the fuck don't these "Christian" conservatives emulate their hero Jesus Christ by forgiving people who repent? Whatever Vick's true motivations, he served his time, and it's very doubtful that he's ever getting into dog fighting again, if only because he has too much to lose.
Cut him some slack. He's trying to be good now. It's the Christian thing to do. You do believe in Jesus, right?
Posted by Ron at 5:50 PM
"POST-INDUSTRIAL CAPITALISM HAS COMPLETELY DESTROYED THOSE CONDITIONS."
Democracy Now's Amy Goodman interviews addiction specialist Dr. Gábor Máté on his ideas about child development and environment:
DR. GABOR MATÉ: Well, autism is a whole spectrum of disorders, but the essential quality of it is an emotional disconnect. These children are living in a mind of their own. They don’t respond appropriately to emotional cues. They withdraw. They act out in an aggressive and sometimes just unpredictable fashion. They don’t know how to—there’s no sense—there’s no clear sense of a emotional connection and just peace inside them.
And there’s many, many more kids in this country now, several-fold increase, 20-fold increase in the last 30 years. The rates of anxiety amongst children is increasing. The numbers of kids on antidepressant medications has increased tremendously. The number of kids being diagnosed with bipolar disorder has gone up. And then not to mention all the behavioral issues, the bullying that I’ve already mentioned, the precocious sexuality, the teenage pregnancies. There’s now a program, a so-called "reality show," that just focuses on teenage mothers.
You know, in other words—see, it never used to be that children grew up in a stressed nuclear family. That wasn’t the normal basis for child development. The normal basis for child development has always been the clan, the tribe, the community, the neighborhood, the extended family. Essentially, post-industrial capitalism has completely destroyed those conditions. People no longer live in communities which are still connected to one another. People don’t work where they live. They don’t shop where they live. The kids don’t go to school, necessarily, where they live. The parents are away most of the day. For the first time in history, children are not spending most of their time around the nurturing adults in their lives. And they’re spending their lives away from the nurturing adults, which is what they need for healthy brain development.
Watch, read, or listen to the rest here.
Okay, this all seems very Oprah, and I don't usually involve myself with such things. But Máté makes some very compelling arguments which place the notion of childhood brain development squarely in the realm of things that do concern me, namely the way that free market ideology has contaminated the spheres of human existence that one doesn't usually consider as being part of that which we call "economics."
To be fair, I actually do have something of a background with child development issues, if only because of the courses I took when I was getting my secondary certification. And one of the things that stuck with me is how environment, in a very absolute sense, can radically make or break any child's chances for success in adult life. This much we already know. What Máté does that's new, to me anyway, is to look at a child's family life specifically in terms of the host of psychological maladies with which our entire society is seemingly besieged today.
I mean okay, I've often wondered if the rise in ADHD cases is more about parents pestering doctors to give their kids some speed to shut them up than it is about actual cases of ADHD. I've wondered if the rise in addiction rates is more about the rise of the addiction treatment industry than about actual addiction. If increased underage sexual activity is more of a projection of Puritanical fear mongering than increased underage sexual activity. (Rising depression and anxiety rates I fully accept as fact, in spite of how drug companies push Prozac and Paxil during commercial breaks, but then I think depression and anxiety are a pretty reasonable reaction to the fucked up society in which we now live.) I'm sure you get my drift. But this guy makes me wonder. If you filter out things like Big Pharma marketing, War on Drugs propaganda, ADHD mania and the like, there may very well still be a massive underlying problem.
Máté dismisses the medical profession's cry of "genetics!" as overarching cause for these disorders because there really isn't any actual proof, and instead offers fucked up brain development as the more likely culprit. Human beings, after all, unlike all other mammals, are born essentially premature, in order to allow our eventually large heads to make it out of the womb. That means that, while other animals are born with fully developed brains, humans must continue their brain development for years after birth. In short, certain psychological and emotional factors present in childhood can produce truly screwed up people later in life: if you don't have a nurturing and emotionally healthy family environment, your brain wires itself in ways that may very well predispose you to addiction, or autism, or attention deficit disorder.
And the way Máté tells it, social decisions that have been very good for business have been beyond awful for the emotionally healthy family environment.
Go check it out. It's pretty fascinating.
Posted by Ron at 2:43 AM
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Yoko Ono: Lady Gaga 'Has A Very Lovely Bottom'
From the Huffington Post news wire:
Another thing John would love? Lady Gaga -- and Yoko herself is a big fan, too. Especially of her bottom.
"Lady Gaga has a very pretty bottom," Ono declared. "She performed with me on stage wearing a see-through lace catsuit and people thought it was an insult because you could see her bottom. I'm the lady who did an exhibition of bottoms. How could hers offend me?
In fact, it didn't: "She has a very lovely bottom. I think she's wonderful. John would have loved her, because she's an artist, she's fearless and she pushes every limit, which we both always adored."
The performance together that Ono refers to was an October concert, where Gaga joined up with the conceptual band that Ono and Lennon started over forty years ago, Plastic Ono Band. In many ways, Ono and Gaga are similar, both avante garde artists in their times.
Lady Gaga...I'm still not quite sure what to say about her. The bottom line, no pun intended, for me and Lady Gaga is that, while I really don't understand at all what she's trying to do or why, and while I don't really even like her music all that much, it is impossible to not observe that her work definitely rises to the level of artistry. Visually, anyway. I mean, all that crazy fucked up shit she does is quite clearly tapping the performance art vein, something her techno dance club peers just don't have the creative chops to do. So, even though I'm not a fan, I do watch from a distance, and approve of how she's shaking up the nowadays sedate and plastic pop music scene.
She has, at the very least, my respect.
Of course, I love Yoko Ono. Her connection with John Lennon is what pulled me in initially, but she eventually won me over completely. Her avant-garde weirdness I understand, and I think it greatly exceeds Lady Gaga's work in terms of authentic emotional intensity. But their mutual admiration, and gigging together, make sense. They're both, after all, big fucking weirdos.
Anyway, here's a bit from their show:
And just for fun, here's some of that "exhibition of bottoms" Yoko mentions in the excerpt above. Uh, this probably isn't safe for work:
Frightened? Don't be. It's just weird shit as art. Nothing to fear. Laugh and point, if you have to, which is as good of a way as any to appreciate it all.
Posted by Ron at 2:22 AM
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
I'm heading back to Kingwood for a few days to celebrate the Yule with family. As is my custom, I don't even try to blog when I'm on holiday, so Real Art is going dark until probably the twenty seventh or so. But I do want to leave you with some appropriate reading material while I'm gone.
Christmas or Christmas Day is a holiday observed generally on December 25 to commemorate the birth of Jesus, the central figure of Christianity. The date is not known to be the actual birthday of Jesus, and may have initially been chosen to correspond with either the day exactly nine months after some early Christians believed Jesus had been conceived, the date of the Roman winter solstice, or one of various ancient winter festivals. Christmas is central to the Christmas and holiday season, and in Christianity marks the beginning of the larger season of Christmastide, which lasts twelve days.
Although nominally a Christian holiday, Christmas is also celebrated by an increasing number of non-Christians worldwide, and many of its popular celebratory customs have pre-Christian or secular themes and origins. Popular modern customs of the holiday include gift-giving, music, an exchange of greeting cards, church celebrations, a special meal, and the display of various decorations; including Christmas trees, lights, garlands, mistletoe, nativity scenes, and holly. In addition, several similar mythological figures, known as Saint Nicholas, Father Christmas and Santa Claus among other names, are associated with bringing gifts to children during the Christmas season.
Because gift-giving and many other aspects of the Christmas festival involve heightened economic activity among both Christians and non-Christians, the holiday has become a significant event and a key sales period for retailers and businesses. The economic impact of Christmas is a factor that has grown steadily over the past few centuries in many regions of the world.
Read all about Christmas here.
From the Huffington Post:
Jon Kyl: Harry Reid Would 'Disrespect' Christmas By Extending Senate Session
A top Republican has accused Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of potentially 'disrespecting' Christmas.
Reid threatened to get tough with his power over the chamber's calendar Tuesday, when he told reporters that "there's still Congress after Christmas," implying to his colleagues that he would keep the Senate in session until the start of the 112th Congress on January 4th in order to provide time to vote on a laundry list of legislative items that the lame duck Congress had planned to tackle.
GOP Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl quickly took offense to the notion that legislators might be expected to work after December 25 and accused Reid of potentially "disrespecting one of the two holiest of holidays for Christians."
For more stupid Republican bullshit, click here.
10 Best Christmas Songs for Atheists
It's widely assumed that atheists, by definition, hate Christmas. And it's an assumption I'm baffled by. I like Christmas. Lots of atheists I know like Christmas. Heck, even Richard Dawkins likes Christmas. Plenty of atheists recognize the need for rituals that strengthen social bonds and mark the passing of the seasons. Especially when the season in question is dark and wet and freezing cold. Add in a culturally- sanctioned excuse to spend a month of Saturdays eating, drinking, flirting, and showing off our most festive shoes, and we're totally there. And we find our own ways to adapt/ create/ subvert the holiday traditions to our own godless ends.
Again from AlterNet:
Holiday Sampler from Wikileaks
Human rights advocates have significant new sources of information to hold the United States accountable. The transparency, which Wikileaks has brought about, unveils many cover-ups of injustices in US relations with Honduras, Spain, Thailand, UK and Yemen over issues of torture at Guantanamo, civilian casualties from drones, and the war in Iraq.
Okay, that ought to just about do it. See you next week, and happy Christmas!
Posted by Ron at 1:01 AM
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Fox Slammed by L.A. Times -- 'Shouldn't Call Itself a News Organization'
On Friday, the Los Angeles Times broke a taboo of sorts among mainstream news organizations by urging Fox News to “crack down on... partisanship in its news ranks” or ”stop pretending to be an objective news source.”
The editorial was prompted by the leak of an internal Fox News memo ordering its “reporters” to “refrain from asserting that the planet has warmed (or cooled) in any given period without IMMEDIATELY pointing out that such theories are based upon data that critics have called into question.” The memo was sent by Bill Sammon, Fox News' Washington managing editor, in 2009 and released by Media Matters last week.
The Times noted that “such data aren't in serious dispute among climate scientists.”
It's refreshing to see a leading news outlet abandon the premise that Fox is a “fair and balanced” news organization during the day, and shows its conservative slant only in its evening opinion shows. The Times editorial board noted that mainstream reporters had shrugged off an earlier memo directing Fox personnel to refer to the “public option” as a “government option” during the health-care reform debate because the phase tested poorly among viewers.
The establishment media had also largely ignored internal memos obtained by the Huffington Post after Democrats won control of both chambers of Congress in 2006, which urged Fox News “reporters,” among other things, to “be on the lookout for any statements from the Iraqi insurgents who must be thrilled at the prospect of a Dem-controlled Congress.” Similar missives had been revealed earlier by film-maker Robert Greenwald in his 2004 documentary, “Outfoxed.”
The reason this is so significant is that no other mainstream corporate news organization has yet been willing to admit what everybody else already knows, including the people who own and operate it: Fox News is exactly what it appears to be, a right-wing propaganda machine--"fair and balanced" isn't simply a misleading slogan; rather, it is a statement that describes the exact opposite of reality. That is, Fox is unfair and unbalanced.
And it's totally obvious.
Strangely, all major corporate news media outlets, like the New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN, maybe excluding MSNBC, but certainly not excluding NBC News proper and the nearly as rightwardly slanted CNBC, and others, have refrained for some fifteen years from speaking the truth about Fox. The reasons for this are no doubt numerous and complex, but my best guess is a sense of tribal protectiveness among the news-gathering brethren. Or maybe they have a deep seated fear that what they do for their wealthy corporate controllers isn't too terribly far removed from what the more honest propagandists over at Fox are doing. Hard to say. At any rate, the LA Times finally deciding to call that which looks, smells, and tastes like dog shit what it really is, dog shit, is indeed "refreshing," as the excerpt above asserts.
Of course, even if other news organizations follow the LA Times' lead on this, it in no way signals the end of right-wing news bias or even pro-establishment propaganda disguised as news. The sad sobering reality is that the so-called "objective" news outlets are anything but. I mean, they're more subtle and sophisticated than Fox's sledgehammer approach, but "the news" is, by and large, a media product that exists to serve the corporate hegemony and Big Government.
On the other hand, when news outlets are at odds with one another, rather than in their usual lockstep, the truth often slips through. Maybe we will see some good things coming out of this.
Posted by Ron at 1:32 AM
Monday, December 20, 2010
Rove Suspected In Swedish-U.S. Political Prosecution of WikiLeaks
From the Huffington Post courtesy of Hullabaloo:
Karl Rove's help for Sweden as it assists the Obama administration's prosecution against WikiLeaks could be the latest example of the adage, "Politics makes strange bedfellows."
Rove has advised Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt for the past two years after resigning as Bush White House political advisor in mid-2007.
"This all has Karl's signature," a reliable political source told me a week and a half ago in encouraging our Justice Integrity Project to investigate Rove's Swedish connection. "He must be very happy. He's right back in the middle of it. He's making himself valuable to his new friends, seeing the U.S. government doing just what he'd like ─ and screwing his opponents big-time."
WikiLeaks created a problem for Sweden and its prime minister, at left above, by revealing a 2008 cable disclosing that its executive branch asked American officials to keep intelligence-gathering "informal" to avoid required Parliamentary scrutiny. That secret was among the 251,000 U.S. cables obtained by WikiLeaks and relayed to the New York Times and four other media partners. They have so far reported about 1,300 of the secret cables after trying for months to vet them through U.S. authorities.
Assange, a nomadic 39-year-old Australian, sought political haven in Sweden during this planning. Also, he fell into the arms of two Swedish beauties who offered to put him up at their apartments on his speaking trip to their country last August. Now free on bond, he is likely to be extradited from the United Kingdom to Sweden to answer questions about his one-night stands.
Swedish prosecutors initially dropped their investigation of assault complaints. But the decision was reversed. Far more ominously than the sex probe, Swedes could ship Assange to the United States.
Okay, that was the sound of the other shoe dropping.
The worldwide establishment hysteria about the Wikileaks organization immediately made the strange sex allegations in Sweden against its founder Julian Assange dubious, at the very least. That is, we already know that numerous politicians and establishment players want his head; the ill defined sex accusations, which have not yet actually become charges, that surfaced very quickly after the latest dump of classified documents seem to be just too damned convenient. I'm not certain, but I feel pretty sure the "sex by surprise" accusation is nothing more than an attempt to get Assange into Swedish custody so that he can be quickly handed over to US authorities, who, our Democratic President has made achingly clear, no longer have to follow Constitutional restrictions when it comes to dealing with foreigners in American courts.
In other words, the "rape" claims, at first glance, don't pass the smell test. Throwing Karl Rove into the mix, however, sends the stench level into the stratosphere.
Of course, there's no proof on this one way or the other. Indeed, and it is extraordinarily important to keep making this observation, Assange has not yet been charged with anything--I'm betting that he won't ever be charged...at least, not in Sweden. No proof there. Likewise, for all we know, Rove is just doing consulting work, nothing more. For a Swedish politician who just happens to have every reason to want Assange in chains. No proof there, either.
But let's look at some of Rove's history, courtesy of Democracy Now's Amy Goodman:
In 1970, College Republican Rove stole letterhead from the Illinois Democratic campaign of Alan Dixon, and used it to invite hundreds of people to Dixon's new headquarters opening, promising "free beer, free food, girls and a good time for nothing," disrupting the event.None of this is proof that Karl Rove is orchestrating the arrest of Julian Assange in Sweden on bogus rape charges. I mean sure, it would totally be up his alley. And he is working for a Swedish conservative official who fucking hates Assange. But it's not proof. Actually, historically speaking, Rove is pretty good at hiding his tracks. There probably never will be any proof of his involvement, if he is, indeed, involved. Just as there will probably never be any proof that Assange raped two Swedish women. Primarily because it most likely didn't happen and the whole thing is a massive dirty trick to discredit and imprison a guy who is embarrassing the shit out of the global elite.
In 1973, Rove ran for chairman of the College Republicans. He challenged the front-runner's delegates, throwing the national convention into disarray, after which both he and his opponent, Robert Edgeworth, claimed victory. The dispute was resolved when Rove was selected through the direct order of the chairman of the Republican National Committee, who at the time was none other than George H.W. Bush.
In 1986, while working for Texas Republican gubernatorial hopeful William Clements, Rove claimed that his personal office had been bugged, most likely by the campaign of incumbent Democratic Gov. Mark White. Nothing was proved, but the negative press, weeks before the election, helped Rove's man win a narrow victory. FBI agent Greg Rampton removed the bug, disrupting any attempt to properly investigate who planted it.
When Rove advised on George W. Bush's 1994 race for governor of Texas against Democratic incumbent Ann Richards, a persistent whisper campaign in conservative East Texas wrongly suggested that Richards was a lesbian. According to Texas journalist Lou Dubose: "No one ever traced the character assassination to Rove. Yet no one doubts that Rove was behind it. It's a process on which he holds a patent. Identify your opponent's strength, and attack it so relentlessly that it becomes a liability. Richards was admired because she promised and delivered a 'government that looked more like the people of the state.' That included the appointment of blacks, Hispanics and gays and lesbians. Rove made that asset a liability."
After John McCain thumped George W. Bush in the 2000 New Hampshire primary, with 48 percent of the vote to Bush's 30 percent, a massive smear campaign was launched in South Carolina, a key battleground. TV attack ads from third groups and anonymous fliers circulated, variously suggesting that McCain's experience as a prisoner of war in Vietnam left him mentally scarred with an uncontrollable temper, that his wife, Cindy, abused drugs and that he had an African-American "love child." In fact, the McCains adopted their daughter Bridget from a Bangladesh orphanage run by Mother Teresa.
According to the investigation of Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, Rove played a central role in the outing of undercover CIA operative Valerie Plame to columnist Robert Novak and former Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper, in retaliation for her husband Joe Wilson's accusation that the Bush administration falsely claimed that Saddam Hussein sought uranium in Niger.
Rove has ignored subpoenas to testify before Congress regarding the Justice Department scandal of the firing of nine U.S. attorneys. He skipped a hearing on improper use of RNC e-mail accounts by White House staff, which allowed them to skirt the Presidential Records Act. Rove claims he enjoys executive privilege, which travels with him as he leaves the White House.
For me, Rove simply being within a thousand miles of the Scandinavian peninsula is enough. The rape charges against Assange are almost certainly a Machiavellian maneuver directed by the Turd Blossom. But like I keep saying, there's just no proof.
Posted by Ron at 1:23 AM
Saturday, December 18, 2010
GAYS IN THE MILITARY!
From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:
Gays celebrate repeal of 'don't ask, don't tell'
President Barack Obama had made repealing "don't ask, don't tell" a campaign promise in 2008, and rounding up a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate was a historic victory for him. By the time President Bill Clinton proposed allowing gays to serve in the military in 1993, they had been explicitly barred from military service since World War I.
Foes of lifting the ban argued that the military shouldn't be used to expand the rights of gays and that allowing them to serve openly would hurt troop morale and a unit's ability to fight — the same arguments used against women and blacks.
In the end, Congress agreed to let gays serve only if their sexual orientation remained secret.
Repeal means that for the first time in U.S. history, gays will be openly accepted by the military and can acknowledge their sexual orientation without fear of being discharged. More than 13,500 service members have been dismissed under the 1993 law.
The change wouldn't take immediate effect, however. The legislation says the president and his top military advisers must certify that lifting the ban won't hurt troops' fighting ability. After that, there's a 60-day waiting period for the military.
Wow. I had no idea that so many people had been drummed out in the seventeen years since DADT began: given that the all-volunteer US armed services have been having so much trouble recruiting qualified people recently, you'd think the ban was lifted for purely pragmatic reasons. But no. Recruiters are making their monthly quota these days, so the desperately needed gay infusion of military talent of 2004-2008 or so ended up being a bust.
No, this was purely a cultural issue. In the end, as it has pretty much always been, it was about homophobic squeamishness versus doing the right thing.
I've never bought the "unit cohesion" or "morale" arguments. I mean, like I'm supposed to believe that our trained killers, the most badass of all badasses, guys who like to chew veins, the fucking United States Armed Forces, are made "uncomfortable" by the prospect of gay guys looking at their penises in the shower? No, it's just homophobia. Get over it. You're real men: it means nothing if a gay guy glimpses your manhood.
I've never bought the difficulty in implementation argument, either. Our boys are trained to follow orders. Well, here are your new orders: you will serve effectively and to the best of your ability with gay men. No problem. We could have done this back in 1993 if asshole homophobic Congressmen from both parties hadn't freaked out on it. At least this move today is backed by a solid majority of the population.
Oh, here's an order to all you gay soldiers: try not to look at straight guys' penises in the showers; it makes them nervous for some reason. What? Oh yeah, that's right; you gay soldiers have always avoided homophobic friction. That's because repealing DADT isn't about allowing gays into the military. Gays have always been in the military--they did catch, after all, 13,500 of them over the last seventeen years. Rather, ending DADT simply formalizes an already existing situation. And in that pre-existing situation, gay soldiers are pretty smart; they understand that it's not nice to come on to people who don't want that kind of attention.
Like I said, keeping gays out of the military was always about homophobia, plain and simple. And that means, when you get right down to it, that we've just taken a gigantic leap forward as a nation, culturally speaking. Homophobes no longer rule the day at the Pentagon; anti-gay politicians just got a big dildo rammed into their mouths. Gay has just gone big time official in the USA. Gay marriage in all fifty states can only be a few years away.
In the end, what this means to me, especially considering that I am neither gay nor in the military, is that America is culturally liberal for the most part, and continuing to move in a progressive direction, albeit in fits and starts. Sure, there's a loud minority of "traditional values" people, anti-sex assholes, xenophobes, racists, pro-Christian bigots, and the like. But they're being swept into the dust bin of history. We're hammering out all the details needed for a culturally enlightened nation, Bush and Obama torture policies notwithstanding.
Really, it's economics that's the point of contention in the political arena. The culture issues are just a side show, rhetoric fodder for the bases in both parties, because the nation has already pretty much decided where it stands. If only we could get it figured out on capitalism, finance, labor, health care, stuff like that. Actually, I have a feeling that we've got all that figured out too, I mean, as a people--it's the establishment pricks in Washington who are out of step.
But I digress.
The best way I can think of to celebrate today's momentous event is to savor the outrage of anti-gay fundamentalist zealots. Here's a fabulous piece of absurdity from the psychotically anti-sex Jesus political group American Family Association via Hullabaloo:
The armies of other nations have allowed gays to serve openly in the military. The reason they could afford to do this is simple: they could allow homosexuals to serve in their military because we didn’t allow them to serve in ours.Man, I giggle every time I read that.
They knew they could count on the strength, might, power, and cohesion of the U.S. military to intervene whenever and wherever necessary to pull their fannies out of the fire and squash the forces of tyranny wherever they raised their ugly heads around the world.
Those days are now gone. We will no longer be able to bail out these other emasculated armies because ours will now be feminized and neutered beyond repair, and there is no one left to bail us out. We have been permanently weakened as a military and as a nation by these misguided and treasonous Republican senators, and the world is now a more dangerous place for us all.
Posted by Ron at 11:45 PM
Friday, December 17, 2010
"Whom Gods Destroy"
"Whom Gods Destroy" is a third season episode of Star Trek: The Original Series. It is episode #69, production #71, and was broadcast on January 3, 1969. It was written by Lee Erwin, based on a story by Lee Erwin and Jerry Sohl, and directed by Herb Wallerstein. The title is based on a quote often misattributed to Euripides (see his Wikiquote page q:Euripides).
Overview: Kirk faces off with an insane starship captain determined to control the universe.
Watch it here.
Notes and pics:
* Oh cool, another mental hospital episode. Featuring an insane starship captain inviting those "what if" thoughts we saw in "The Doomsday Machine." What if Kirk fell to space madness?
* Batgirl now. What is it with all the Batman people? Actually, she's pretty good. I used to know a girl or two like her back in Austin.
* Cool, an Andorian and a Tellarite, both insane.
* Alright! The inmates are literally running the asylum!
* "I am LORD Garth, formerly of Izar."
* Garth is doing successfully here what Joaquin Phoenix failed to do successfully in Gladiator.
* Wow, watch Marta go!
* Garth is a shape shifter. So now we have yet another evil Kirk. I've lost track of how many at this point.
* Oh man, what a fabulous Kirk rage! Of course, it's crazy Garth, not the real Kirk.
* Nice fur coat.
* Scotty in command!
* This guy reminds me of Brando in a weird way.
* Marta: "Why can't I blow up just one of his ears?"
* WTF? Are they a wheelbarrow?
* Garth: "I may have you beaten to death."
* Oh my god, their conversation is sublime. Garth: "Lies, all lies!"
* Garth keeps hinting at unexplored Bob Goldthwait territory.
* Nothing like watching a green Orion slave girl do an exotic dance.
* This is all so awkward and weird. I love it.
* Garth is fucking magnificent, a sort of slow burn Daffy Duck as Doctor Doom.
* Marta's always doing this twitchy shit.
* Isn't that the same chair from "Dagger of the Mind"?
* At last, Kirk's clumsy weird make out moves are displayed in a context in which they make sense: the insane asylum.
* Yeah, I definitely knew a few girls like her back in Austin.
* Don't trust him Captain; it's Garth!
* Ah, Lee Kuan again.
* Wait, is that a silver boot paired with a gold boot?
* Kirk's attempt to persuade the Tellarite and Andorian to defect is pure Shatner.
* Nice. The kind of space suit we saw in "The Tholian Web."
* Nice theatre of the macabre with blowing up Marta.
* Are phaser beams supposed to be blue or red? I never can remember.
* Is that cellophane over Spock's cell door? Seriously, it's got a subtle and interesting look, and I'm not talking about the special effect when he touches it.
* Oh cool, double Vulcan neck pinch.
* Two Kirks, good.
* And now they're fighting, excellent.
* "The medicine seems to be taking effect; it's very encouraging." Actually, Garth looks totally hopped up on Thorazine.
* Okay, this one is a lot of fun, primarily because Garth and Marta are such marvelous crazy people. But, as is by now shaping up to be a defining characteristic of the third season, you have to sort of stretch your understanding and acceptance of what Star Trek actually is in order to appreciate what they're doing. That is, this is another one of those theatrically odd episodes that has its characters behaving in bizarre and artificial ways. It's just not terribly realistic, as far as science fiction goes, but the performances are so wonderfully off-kilter that you just have to wallow in the wackiness of it all.
Maybe I'm going too easy on these late era Star Trek offerings. They are very WTF at many points. And some of them, like "Plato's Stepchildren," just fail miserably. But there's some really good shit here, too, if you can get into the spirit of things.
I really liked "Whom Gods Destroy." Four stars.
Posted by Ron at 1:49 AM
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Stem Cell Transplant Cures HIV In 'Berlin Patient'
From the Huffington Post news wire:
On the heels of World AIDS Day comes a stunning medical breakthrough: Doctors believe an HIV-positive man who underwent a stem cell transplant has been cured as a result of the procedure.
Timothy Ray Brown, also known as the "Berlin Patient," received the transplant in 2007 as part of a lengthy treatment course for leukemia. His doctors recently published a report in the journal Blood affirming that the results of extensive testing "strongly suggest that cure of HIV infection has been achieved."
Brown's case paves a path for constructing a permanent cure for HIV through genetically-engineered stem cells.
I had an English professor back in 1987, Dr. Joan Samuelson, a rather wonderful woman, who once strongly asserted that science would eventually find a cure for AIDS. At the time, given how utterly stymied scientists seemed to be, and how gay men were continuing to drop like flies across the country, it seemed a dubious assertion. Even after the appearance of protease inhibitor drugs in the mid 90s, which made being HIV positive a manageable, but not curable, condition, finding a final solution to the AIDS crisis still seemed hopelessly out of reach. But I've never forgotten Dr. Samuelson's optimism for and belief in the great spirit of human accomplishment.
Nearly a quarter of a century later, her pie-in-the-sky attitude about the eventual end of AIDS doesn't seem so pie-in-the-sky. The article goes on to observe that this guy in Berlin doesn't represent an actual cure for HIV, but it is yet another sign that scientists really are closing in on one. I'm really, finally, beginning to believe that it's going to happen, probably in the next few years.
AIDS hasn't affected me, personally, thank god, but I have known some HIV positive men over the years, a few who died from the condition, too, not to mention the fact that AIDS has wildly affected social and sexual attitudes in the world my generation has inherited, in both good and bad ways. It will be pretty cool, indeed, to see AIDS join the ranks of diseases that were formerly deadly, but now curable.
I wonder how or if society will be affected by such an event.
Posted by Ron at 8:49 PM
Every Act of Rebellion Helps Tear Down Our Corrupt System
From AlterNet, my favorite journalist with a Master of Divinity from Harvard Chris Hedges reflects on his time in Eastern Europe right before the Iron Curtain fell, and what it may mean for us here in the United States today:
The long, long road of sacrifice, tears and suffering that led to the collapse of these regimes stretched back decades. Those who made change possible were those who had discarded all notions of the practical. They did not try to reform the Communist Party. They did not attempt to work within the system. They did not even know what, if anything, their protests would accomplish. But through it all they held fast to moral imperatives. They did so because these values were right and just. They expected no reward for their virtue; indeed they got none. They were marginalized and persecuted. And yet these poets, playwrights, actors, singers and writers finally triumphed over state and military power. They drew the good to the good. They triumphed because, however cowed and broken the masses around them appeared, their message of defiance did not go unheard. It did not go unseen. The steady drumbeat of rebellion constantly exposed the dead hand of authority and the rot and corruption of the state.
We may feel, in the face of the ruthless corporate destruction of our nation, our culture, and our ecosystem, powerless and weak. But we are not. We have a power that terrifies the corporate state. Any act of rebellion, no matter how few people show up or how heavily it is censored by a media that caters to the needs and profits of corporations, chips away at corporate power. Any act of rebellion keeps alive the embers for larger movements that follow us. It passes on another narrative. It will, as the rot of the state consumes itself, attract wider and wider numbers. Perhaps this will not happen in our lifetimes. But if we persist we will keep this possibility alive. If we do not, it will die.
All energy directed toward reforming political and state structures is useless. All efforts to push through a “progressive” agenda within the corridors of power are naive. Trust in the reformation of our corporate state reflects a failure to recognize that those who govern, including Barack Obama, are as deaf to public demands and suffering as those in the old Communist regimes. We cannot rely on any systems of power, including the pillars of the liberal establishment—the press, liberal religious institutions, universities, labor, culture and the Democratic Party. They have been weakened to the point of anemia or work directly for the corporations that dominate our existence. We can rely now on only ourselves, on each other.
Well, that's what I've been saying.
I'm not sure exactly when it was, but at some point in the late 90s I became convinced that the Republican/Democrat political dynamic had been rendered essentially meaningless by the dominance of massive amounts of corporate campaign cash: Republicans were now simply the corporate party to the far right; Democrats were now the corporate party to the right. In effect, there was no longer, for me, any established political institution in existence with any hope of enacting the reforms this country desperately needs.
At around the same time, I was teaching high school, and as my views on education in America were beginning to solidify, it became achingly clear to me that virtually all US institutions were in deep with the corporations, either directly or by way of adopting and pushing the corporate world view. The media, the churches, the schools and universities, big arts institutions, think tanks, political parties (excluding, of course, the Greens), popular music, movies and TV shows, all these entities push, more or less, a corporate philosophy of professionalism, which means pay attention to only the things for which you have been trained, materialism, which is euphemized as "consumerism," free market fundamentalism, and non-community and personal isolation. And our culture is literally drowning in these anti-American and self-destructive messages: it is as though there is no other thought than to embrace corporate America.
It does indeed appear to be completely hopeless. The whole fucking country has become a sick and twisted shadow of its former self, or rather, what it has always, if clumsily, tried to be. How do you persuade an entire nation to change its ways? How do you take on a whole country? The far easier choice is to concede, give in, give up, try to look out just for myself because that's what everybody else is doing. Of course, giving up makes me sick to my stomach, which is a drag because resisting, in the face of incredibly overwhelming opposition, makes me nearly as nauseated.
For years now, inspired by the writing of the late radical historian Howard Zinn, I have tried to content myself with something similar to Hedges' notion that "any act of rebellion...chips away at corporate power," but it has been unsatisfying, especially as I've watched the tentative hopefulness of the Obama era give way, once again, to despair. I mean, you know, it's all I've got really, small time stuff. People are like "great blog, Ron," or "good set, man, great songs," or "wow, you know a lot about this stuff," but I never really get the sense that I've really honestly gotten people to think deeply about their country, about how they feel disaffected from the political system, about how they are oppressed by the wealthy.
But Hedges' essay does a great job of contextualizing and ennobling such acts of defiance. Americans who resist the corporate order, in any way at all, even using simple oppositional rhetoric like I do here at Real Art, are carrying on a tradition that helped bring down the Iron Curtain, Jim Crow, and other repressive regimes throughout history. Resistance breeds resistance. Simply showing that you don't have to quietly accept oppression makes its own statement, "chips away at corporate power," as Hedges says.
Words and deeds, even small ones, have power. They may be all I've got, but history has shown that simple, small-scale acts may very well be enough to do the job, or, at least, start the job.
Posted by Ron at 2:26 AM
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Iraqi Christians Flee Wave Of Targeted Violence
From NPR's All Things Considered:
In Iraq, a wave of attacks targeting Christians is leading to an exodus from Baghdad and other cities. Before the 2003 U.S. invasion, there were nearly 1 million Christians in the country. That number was cut in half in the past several years.
Now, with the latest violence, families are seeking refuge in northern Iraq and trying to emigrate.
Bashar Warda is a Chaldean Catholic archbishop. He says Christians have been part of this country since the 2nd century. But, unlike other Christian leaders, he can't in good conscience encourage Christians to stay.
"Practically, I cannot guarantee anything to any family. I would ask them if they have the patience to stay, if they could travel elsewhere, just for the meantime. That's all," he says.
Listen to or read the rest here.
Given the sectarian violence that has been raging in Iraq since, well, since our ill fated invasion of the defenseless nation back in 2003, it should come as no surprise that Iraqi Christians would finally become targets. So my point in posting this article isn't to say "Wow, check this out--it's bad;" rather, it's to rub people's noses in the big huge smelly steaming pile of how badly we fucked up by occupying the oil-rich desert nation.
Specifically, to rub fundamentalist Christian noses in the dog shit they decided to make Iraqis eat.
American fundamentalists were some of the biggest cheerleaders for the invasion, especially my former sect, the Southern Baptists. It's all about God, guns, glory, and America to these sick people. Needless to say, the Jesus they worship bears very little resemblance to the Jesus of popular understanding. Their Jesus is a vengeance filled asshole with a sword, ready to lob off the heads of anybody who crosses him, or his pet country the USA. When fundamentalist President GW Bush said let's go to war, fundamentalist Americans screamed "Fuckin' A!"
When it was Muslims killing Muslims, these people didn't give a shit. It was the price Iraq had to pay for their WMD, or for freedom, or democracy, whatever. Besides, to them, Muslims aren't really people because they're not Christians. So what if they get blown up? Well, now they're killing Christians from a national community that dates back nearly two millenia. We made Iraq safe, alright, safe to kill Christians. And Muslims, too, but they don't matter.
Will American fundamentalists understand the irony? Probably not. Apart from the fact that irony simply does not exist in the fundamentalist mind, the Christians of Iraq are Catholic, and therefore not "born again" in the protestant sense, which means they're not really Christians. So why give a shit if apostate Christians are slaughtered? It'll do the world some good to get rid of the fakes.
Posted by Ron at 2:41 AM
Monday, December 13, 2010
FROM THE REAL ART SPORTS DESK
Gators Hire Assistant From Texas to Coach
From the New York Times:
That is where Florida Athletic Director Jeremy Foley had deftly executed one of the most stealth big-time coaching searches in recent memory, as the Gators named the Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp as their new head coach.
Muschamp was the designated coach in waiting at Texas, a job that, along with coaching Florida, is among the sport’s elite. Muschamp takes over for Urban Meyer, who raised the already crazed expectations in Gainesville by winning two national titles during his six seasons.
“Coach Muschamp is a great hire for the University of Florida,” Meyer said. “He is a relentless recruiter and brings a tremendous amount of energy and passion to the game. I would run into him on the road often on the recruiting trail and have always been impressed with him as a coach and a person.”
Silly me. I thought that because the season was over for the Longhorns things couldn't get any worse. There are other ways to lose. And this one is almost as bad as watching the injured Colt McCoy warming a bench on the sideline during the ill fated Alabama game last year. Muschamp is everything people say about him, brilliant, a genius. And he was also coach-in-waiting for Texas, which gave the Longhorn nation, I'm sure, a sense of security over the long term. Now he's gone. I didn't even know that was a possibility. This means Texas must replace not only its offensive coordinator, who recently resigned, but also the defensive coordinator. Clearly, the 5-7 Longhorns are now in total disarray.
At least there's still a chance Major Applewhite could get the chief offense job. I mean, I have no idea if he's up to the task, but he is, after all, Major fuckin' Applewhite. Wouldn't it be fab if the Longhorn fan fave became a brilliant offensive coordinator at the school where he wrote his own legend?
Yeah, I'm an optimist. For the Longhorns, anyway.
Posted by Ron at 2:02 AM
Sunday, December 12, 2010
An unlearned lesson about neoliberalism
From the Daily Kos:
In this country, the neoliberal cult of an unregulated self-correcting free market began to creep into Democratic policy-making during the Carter presidency, and it accelerated with the Clinton presidency, which Obama's has come to emulate. The problem with neoliberalism was concisely summarized by Joseph Stiglitz, in 2008:
The world has not been kind to neo-liberalism, that grab-bag of ideas based on the fundamentalist notion that markets are self-correcting, allocate resources efficiently, and serve the public interest well. It was this market fundamentalism that underlay Thatcherism, Reaganomics, and the so-called “Washington Consensus” in favor of privatization, liberalization, and independent central banks focusing single-mindedly on inflation.A phenomenon from which the United States has not been immune, with an income gap steadily growing and now greater than ever before recorded. And as Stiglitz continued:
For a quarter-century, there has been a contest among developing countries, and the losers are clear: countries that pursued neo-liberal policies not only lost the growth sweepstakes; when they did grow, the benefits accrued disproportionately to those at the top.
Neo-liberal market fundamentalism was always a political doctrine serving certain interests. It was never supported by economic theory. Nor, it should now be clear, is it supported by historical experience. Learning this lesson may be the silver lining in the cloud now hanging over the global economy.But there was no lesson learned. The Obama economic team seriously underestimated the severity of the crisis they inherited, and were ideologically incapable of perceiving it as the transformative moment it should have been. A depression may have been averted, but a real recovery did not begin.
An even more important lesson to learn about neoliberalism, I mean, apart from the fact that it doesn't work, is that when human beings are concerned, herd mentality usually trumps logic and reasoning. Seriously. Logic isn't something that comes naturally to us. We are, after all, biological creatures who often forget that we are animals, complexly thinking animals, to be sure, but animals nonetheless. That means emotion and instinct are as strong in us as in dogs or cats or salmon or ducks. We can, with effort, overcome such biological drives in order to embrace reason on certain issues and at certain times, but we have to remain constantly vigilant such that our hopes and fears don't overpower carefully constructed and logical trains of thought.
Really, we're just like chimpanzees. And chimps have this thing called the "alpha male," the guy who's in charge, who gets the most bananas, who gets the most sex. He's the loudest, the strongest, the most aggressive. Other chimps follow his lead. It's more complicated for humans, of course, but the dynamic is essentially the same. Despite our aspiration for rationality, we usually defer to authority, whether it is reasonable or not to do so. We're also like cows and horses: if everybody else is doing something, then we should probably be doing it, too, even if it means peacefully walking into the slaughter house to meet our grisly fate.
This is the only way to understand the establishment's embrace of neoliberalism.
I mean okay, a lot of Washington fully, and cynically, understands that neoliberalim is bullshit propaganda designed to give public legitimacy to stealing from the poor and giving to the rich; I'm talking about people who honestly believe in stuff like "the free market" or that tax cuts for the rich translate into greater economic prosperity for all. That is, there is no other way to explain the doctrine's lingering hold on the establishment's imagination in the face of:
1. The recent near collapse of capitalism as a result of the wild casino-like atmosphere embraced on Wall Street after years of deregulation, which should have had the opposite effect.
2. The continuing slow collapse of the American middle class, made glaringly obvious by the necessity of two bread winners to maintain the standard of living, relative to the single earner household that typified the middle class of the 50s 60s and 70s.
3. The economic success found by South American nations that kicked out the WTO and IMF: these global banking agencies tied massive loans and bailouts to harsh neoliberal reforms that impoverished any and all nations that took the money. It was only when people like Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and others told the IMF to fuck off that the continent started to see any real sense of economic growth.
And the list just goes on and on. We've been doing the neoliberal thing for over three decades now, and it just hasn't turned out at all the way its champions insist it should have. Indeed, neoliberalsim is a scam, doing well what it is really designed to do, rob a million Peters in order to pay off one Paul. Rational people should throw neoliberalism out the window and remove from public discourse all its defenders. But they don't because human beings aren't rational.
What we need, really, is about a million chimpanzees, I mean American citizens, throwing their poop at the alpha male ruling class. If we start shoving bananas up their butts instead of docilely serving them Bananas Foster the way we do, the biological drives might do for us what logic and reason can't: force our leaders to change their herd consensus.
In other words, short of a massive popular freak out in the streets, things aren't likely to change, and no amount of argumentation, persuasion, or reason will make any difference.
Posted by Ron at 1:05 AM
Friday, December 10, 2010
Thursday, December 09, 2010
"Let That Be Your Last Battlefield"
"Let That Be Your Last Battlefield" is the fourteenth episode of the third season of Star Trek: The Original Series. It was first broadcast January 10, 1969, and repeated August 12, 1969. It was written by Oliver Crawford, based on a story by Gene L. Coon (writing under his pen name "Lee Cronin") and directed by Jud Taylor. The script evolved from an outline by Coon for a possible first season episode called A Portrait in Black and White. The script was accepted for the third season following budget cuts. The episode guest-stars Lou Antonio and Frank Gorshin, best known for his role as The Riddler in the Batman live-action television series. Gorshin received an Emmy nomination for his portrayal of Bele.
Overview: The Enterprise picks up two survivors of a war-torn planet who are still committed to destroying each other aboard the ship.
Watch it here.
Notes and pics:
* Interesting. Their mission is some kind of toxic spill cleanup.
* The teaser is all Star Fleet procedure oriented. Nice.
* Am I the only one who's afraid the shuttle bay doors are going to chop off the tail end of the shuttle? It seems like they should wait until it's all the way in before they close it up.
* Cool looking alien. Like something from a deck of cards.
* Spock gets in a nice zinger on the doctor: "Yet you are pumping him full of your noxious potions as if he were a human."
* Kirk: "That's in the Southernmost part of the galaxy..." WTF? The galaxy has a South?
* I like Loki. He's quirky and interesting.
* Last week we had Catwoman. This week it's the Riddler. Anyway, great fucking entrance for Bele.
* Holy God. Frank Gorshin is fucking perfect. He clenches his fists in a weird stylized comic book thing.
* This is worth watching if only for the exchanges between Bele and Loki.
* I'm surprised by how long this debate on the political history of Charon has been allowed to go.
* Wacky red alert shot.
* Wait. This chase has been going on for fifty thousand years?
* Cool. Another debate between Loki and Bele.
* They have super powers.
* I love Bele using his psychic powers. The closed eyes with ominous music.
* Alright! They're doing the self-destruct sequence!!!
* Love the closeups here.
* Kirk: "Code zero zero zero destruct zero." I've known the final code by heart since childhood.
* Scotty: "And at warp 10 we're going nowhere mighty fast."
* Weird, Spock listening covertly to Loki's political proselytizing to the crew.
* What are they drinking here? Cool bottles.
* More intellectual discussion on race and freedom.
* Scotty runs the decontamination mission.
* Bele shows more super powers.
* Bele and Loki's usual debate turns into a super powered confrontation.
* Okay, while flat, I do like the revelation of Charon's destruction by race war.
* I like the shots of burning buildings superimposed over Bele chasing Loki. It looks like London during the blitz.
* Like many scenes in this episode, this chase sequence goes on forever. But Bele runs all funny.
* We don't often see the transporter room from this perspective.
* Sanctimonious final conversation on race hatred from the bridge crew. But it works.
* Okay, according to Wikipedia, "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield" has been heavily criticized for being heavy handed, and this is a fair criticism. It is, indeed, very heavy handed, especially, no doubt, for the audience who viewed it first during the era of race riots, Southern lynchings, and rising black militantism. But this works well in science fiction. That is, even though it pounds its message into your face, it succeeds as the engine driving the plot, at least, forty years after the civil rights era.
Another potential problem is that it's so slow and cerebral. Much of the episode is just wild debate, which I like to see in my sci-fi, but I expect that most people don't share this taste. And it's very comic-booky. I mean, it's got the Riddler, after all, but it also trumps this up with a few touches here and there. I, for one, totally dig this, but again, I don't know how everybody else might like it.
So I'm giving this one a dual rating: four stars for me, and three for everybody else. I really like this one, but you might think it too damned goofy and slow.
Posted by Ron at 11:42 PM