Saturday, June 14, 2008

Note to TV People

I saw a commercial for a reality show about Tori Spelling and her quirky celebrity family and, well, I just gotta say:

STOP this nonsense!

If I see a glorified game show masquerading as a "reality" show (Survivor or The Amazing Race) I turn it off.

If your show has a panel of expert judges trying to pick the next big thing, I'm gonna skip it.

Any shows about the amusing family life of washed-up celebrities? Nah, I'll pass. This may sound crazy, but I could care less about Tori Spelling's family life or what life is really like for Denise Richards. (It's complicated...I get it.)

If you're wondering why I want to cancel my Dish Network account, there ya go. Basically I got better things to do.

My plants are more interesting.

More Herbage

Matthew Yglesias wrote:
At the same time, it's become cliché to observe that we're now in an "information economy" and America is more and more becoming a country that exports media, ideas, design, software, etc. than one that exports planes and cars. Consequently, it's less and less viable to think that the regulation of ideas and content is irrelevant or unimportant -- these are key economic functions, and whether or not they'll be organized to serve the narrow interests of people who current[ly] control certain channels of distribution is a huge issue.
My question, unanswered from the comments, is this:
Interesting point this: "America is more and more becoming a country that exports media, ideas, design, software..."

Question: Should we stake our future on exporting these "information age" commodities?

I ask because though it seems that we have a leg up in those arenas right now but none of them seem to have much growth potential. Because of their cultural nature it seems that eventually different cultures would rather produce that stuff themselves.

We may find ourselves exporting stuff no one else wants because they get it cheaper at home.

Posted by Herb | June 11, 2008 2:04 PM
What do you think?

Are we setting ourselves up for failure by pretending that information is a commodity?

Comparing Tax Plans

Perhaps I'm blogging irresponsibly here, seeing as I haven't actually read the competing tax plans from John McCain and Barack Obama, but I have read the summaries in the media and I like Obama's more.

It's because I'm a partisan liberal Democrat-lover. You caught me.

Actually, it's because of this:
McCain: The average taxpayer in every income group would see a lower tax bill, but high-income taxpayers would benefit more than everyone else.

Obama: High-income taxpayers would pay more in taxes, while everyone else's tax bill would be reduced. Those who benefit the most - in terms of reducing their taxes as a percentage of after-tax income - are in the lowest income groups.

The Republicans cut taxes across the board but give the sweetest deal to "high-income taxpayers," because you know who's really struggling in this country? High-income taxpayers.


10% of the population controls 70% of the country's wealth. High taxes is a small price to pay for that kind of unwarranted control, don't you think?

PS. You wanna talk about getting rid of some of this income inequality? I'm listening. Until then, if the rich want all the pie, they get all the tummy ache too.

The Comb Over

What do zip codes, penicillin, and duct tape have in common? They are all younger than John McCain.

But I don't think John McCain's age is going to be a major hurdle in his quest for the presidency. It's not like he's going to be our first elderly president.

If I were going to pick any superficial issue that is going to be a campaign-killer for McCain, it's his comb-over.

Does McCain's comb over hint at insecurities about his manhood? Does it say anything about his ability to deal with reality? Does it indicate an inherently deceptive nature?

I don't know. What I do know is that I don't trust people with comb overs.

Unfortunately for McCain, I trust Republicans even less.

A Bad Joke About the Recently Deceased

Hey, did you hear Tim Russert died?

No? Well then you weren't watching the NFL network, were you?

(Yeah, I'm joking. And while it may seem insensitive to joke about a guy's death, the joke is really on the media coverage of the guy's death. Subtleties, subtleties. Why, you ask, would the NFL network be covering Russert's untimely passing? Because he was a huge Buffalo Bills fan apparently. Somehow I don't think Barrel Man is going to get the same kind of send off when he passes. If Barrel Man had a TV show, however...)

Gangster Is As Gangster Does

I went to Elitches, the local amusement park, yesterday. We only rode three rides before splitting, but when you have a season's pass you can do that without any guilt.

While getting onto one of those rides, I became an unwitting witness to the lamest gang confrontation ever. The scene:

The ride operator apparently thought of himself as a crip. I would have never noticed if a group of teenage girls, who apparently thought of themselves as bloods, had not started talking smack to him.

This began a comic episode as the girls, strapped into the ride, started calling out gang taunts, which goaded the ride operator into returning them. "Blood killer," he said, giving them the stink eye as the ride started. The bloods continued their taunting and the crip/ride-operator continued the stink eye.

When the ride was over, the crip guy continued his verbal harassment of the blood girls but that was as far as the confrontation went. The blood girls went to the next ride and the crip guy still had to pull the levers.

Part of me wanted to complain to the park. "You know you have gangmembers working the rides and they're threatening guests, right?" But the other part of me just wanted to laugh.

This so-called crip had the attitude and the gangster scowl. His hoodie was blue and it was festooned with graffiti-like gang nonsense written in Sharpie. It was certainly a gangbanger costume.

But he was white, blonde, and he was working at the amusement park.

I don't mean to question his gangster bonafides, but come on, dude. Who do you think you're fooling?

Which lame ass gang is going to let you in, clown? (There is a difference between getting jumped by a gang and getting jumped into a gang.) I mean, maybe I'm wrong, but I was under the impression that most gangs are pretty cleanly divided along racial lines. So what? You're a member of the All-White Crips, or does your gang have an Equal Opportunity policy?

But let's assume for the sake of argument that you really are a Crip. Shouldn't you be out selling crack or robbing car stereos or something? Instead you're pulling the lever on the roller coaster. Hardcore, bro. Hardcore.

What does your set think about your day job anyway, homey?

And let's be real...if working at an amusement park is more lucrative than banging, maybe you might want to consider changing your skill set. Go back to gangster school or something.

As for the little girls who were talking shit? You gotta let that shit go, cuz. Bitches ain't nothing but hos and tricks, right? But let's face it, they were talking shit for good reason. You looked ridiculous trying to represent in your Elitches uniform. Ridiculous!

Instead of inspiring fear and respect, all you got were giggles. Because while real gangsters are scary, wannabe fake-ass gangsters are just funny.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Ghetto Garden In the Morning

A little beauty to make up for the ugliness.

Roses in bloom.

Purple sage.

The Eye

My brother got jumped at a party this weekend and had to have surgery yesterday to drain a hematoma that had formed around his optical nerve. He doesn't want me to post any pictures of it on my blog, but it looked like this:

I don't know the circumstances of the assault, but I must admit that various revenge scenarios have been swimming through my head.

The perpetrators split before the cops --Thornton cops-- came. Thornton cops won't do anything.

Once when I was a Thornton resident, I found a bloody shirt outside my apartment. It was soaked black with blood, dripping with it, so obviously whoever had been wearing it was in a life-threatening condition. I called the cops. They came by, canvassing the building, then split. I presumed that they took the shirt with them as evidence in any crime that might turn up at a local hospital.

But a few months later, after management had trimmed the bushes out front, I saw that same damn shirt, the blood now dried brown and stained with dirt. It wasn't sitting in some evidence bag.

It had been kicked under the bushes by the cops.

So we'll see if the cops do anything for my brother. They certainly didn't do anything for the dude who got stabbed or shot or had one hell of a bloody nose.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Don't Eat the Tomatoes

There's salmonella in the tomatoes.

The FDA says:
At this time, consumers should limit their tomato consumption to tomatoes that have not been implicated in the outbreak. These include cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes, tomatoes sold with the vine still attached, and tomatoes grown at home.
Wait, you mean the tomatoes I grow at home won't have salmonella?

A Rant About Exxon Mobil

Obama says:
At a time when we’re fighting two wars, when millions of Americans can’t afford their medical bills or their tuition bills, when we’re paying more than $4 a gallon for gas, the man who rails against government spending wants to spend $1.2 billion on a tax break for Exxon Mobil. That isn’t just irresponsible. It’s outrageous.

I'm convinced more and more that I backed the right horse in this race.

You know who deserves tax breaks? Single mothers, teachers, nurses, veterans. retirees, just to name a few.

You know who doesn't deserve a tax break? The company that made the biggest profit in the history of profit the last few quarters and that would be Exxon Mobil.

I say tax the shit out of them. What are they going to do? Abandon the American market? Yeah, right.

You get tough with them, they'll still play ball.

Just like our politicians have been playing ball with them for all these years. "Oh you want tax breaks? Okay. You don't want to be liable for oil spills? We can do that too. You don't want to be environmentally friendly? No problem. Here's some tea and crumpets. Do you want me to actually spread your ass open when I kiss it or should I just plant one on the cheek?"

Fuck that. This isn't the mafia. We don't have to pay.

Exxon Mobil should keep in mind that they need us a whole lot more than we need them.

Final Word on Spike Versus Clint

Trey Ellis weighs in on the Clint Versus Spike debate at Huffington Post. We come to different conclusions, but he does make some points.
What is typical in this discourse is the white accused of racism not fully understanding the relative subtlety of the black complaint. Full understanding wasn't helped by the fact that the criticism came from Spike Lee, famous for his unvarnished talk. What Clint is missing here is that Spike has mellowed considerably as he's grown into one of the most interesting filmmakers working today (along with Mr. Eastwood). Yes, Spike was young and wrong when he complained about Eastwood tackling Charlie Parker in "Bird," but that was back in 1988.
I'm glad that we agree that Spike criticizing Bird was wrong-headed, and I will agree that Spike has mellowed with age. (Just look at the contrast between his early more polemical films with his later more sophisticated work.)

But I hope that I'm "not fully understanding the relative subtlety of the black complaint." One thing that bugs me about the state of discourse today is that there is very little effort expending trying to understand different points of view. It's almost as if people are afraid that understanding the other side will weaken their position. That kind of attitude is as unhelpful in poker as it is in life.

Which is why I try to follow the "Seek first to understand, then to be understood" idea.

So I wonder, am I missing the subtleties of Spike's complaint? I don't think so. On a factual level, apparently there are black people in Eastwood's movie. I'll have to watch it again to verify, but the movie's wiki says:
In fact, black Marines are seen in scenes where the mission is being outlined, and during the initial landings - where a wounded black Marine is being carried away. During the end credits historical photographs taken during the Battle of Iwo Jima also show black Marines.
If so, it seems that the complaint that black people were whitewashed from the movie has no merit.

On a larger rhetorical level, that the contribution of black soldiers in WWII has been almost absent from Hollywood depictions, well, that may have some merit, but I suspect it has more to do with historical accuracy --the military was still shamefully segregated in WWII-- than something as nefarious as racism.

(Of course, Hollywood hasn't exactly gone out of its way to tell the story of black units in the war. Hopefully Spike's upcoming film will be a welcome tonic in that regard.)

One just needs to look at Hollywood's portrayal of Vietnam to notice the difference. An integrated military gives us integrated war movies. That's just how it goes.

Final, FINAL word:

"A guy like that should shut his face." Bad form, Clint, bad form. You do sound like a cranky old man there.

I kind of glossed over that to deal with the important stuff. Sorry.

Also...Wikipedia is right!

The (Hater) Guru

At the risk of sounding like a humorless toad, I keep passing this poster of Mike Myer's upcoming movie, The Love Guru, and each time I do, I'm haunted by the same thought:
That dude is so annoying.

Maybe it's just latent bitterness from how bad Wayne's World sucked, but I think it has to do with my sense of humor. I like my humor with a little bit of edge, and aside from the occasional dick joke, Mike Myers has all the edge of a soccer ball. He's just too "cute" for me, I guess.

I don't do cute.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Herb Strikes Again

And gets a nod from blogger Te-Nehisi Coates.

Read This Story

Reading this fascinating story in the New York Times has convinced me that I need to learn more about China.
The density in much of Shenzhen can make Beijing look spacious. The imposing skyline of glass-and-steel towers, plastered with electronic billboards, was built mostly within the last decade, part of the boom that followed foreign investment in the area, when it was declared a special economic zone in the early ’80s. The Chinese government initially allowed many of the small villages that lined the delta to hold on to their land. As land values rose around them, the villagers remained in their increasingly populated districts, where they built cheap, and often instantly decrepit, towers that were so close together they were dubbed “handshake buildings”: you could literally reach out your window and shake hands with your neighbor across the street. The villages are poignant testimonies to the hardships that young workers, recently transplanted from the countryside, face in the new China. Many live packed a half dozen or more in one-bedroom apartments. But if Shenzhen is an emblem of what can happen when free-market capitalism is allowed to run amok, it is also an example of the spontaneous creativity that occurs when people are left to fend for themselves. On a recent visit, the alleyways, dark and claustrophobic, were thick with shops. Elderly people played mah-jongg on card tables in the street; two young children sat at a small desk doing their homework in a tiny storefront that doubled as their bedroom.
Got a few minutes and an interest in architecture? Read the whole article.

A Solution

Remember that horrible ABCNews debate with the dumb questions about flag pins and "Do you think Jeremiah Wright loves America as much as you do?"

Obama and McCain have apparently figured out a solution:
Bill Burton, a spokesman for the Obama campaign said, “Both campaigns have indicated that any additional appearances will be open to all networks for broadcast on TV or Internet like the presidential commission debates rather than sponsored by a single network or news organization.”
You mean the debates will be actual debates instead of Nielsen-bait?


Cold As Ice

CNN says the east coast is going to be suffering a massive heat wave for the next few days. For the Yankee game in the Bronx, the forecast calls for triple digit temperatures.

And yet here in the Rocky Mountains, it's still frigging cold! The sun hasn't come up yet out this way, but current temperatures in Denver?

43 degrees.

Yeah, here we are in the second week of June and I'm still wondering when summer will start...

Fun With Commenters

Commenting on this Ross Douthat post on theodicy, I wrote (under my super-secret internet pseudonym, Herb):
What's the difference between:

A) Christians arguing about Theodicy


B) Star Wars nerds arguing about why Darth Vader can't shoot blue lightning from his fingertips like Emperor Palpatine. (Why? Because the Force requires living flesh to generate blue lightning and Darth Vader is more "machine than man." Hence he just can't do it.)

Trick question: There is no difference.

The argument makes sense within that universe (Christian theology, Star Wars mythology), but taken out of that context, it seems to be a little silly.

Posted by Herb | June 9, 2008 4:39 AM
It prompted this response from David, who I hope is not JACC David because then I'd feel kind of bad:
Dear Herb,

Which is why the Fallows article is so confusing, as is the ranting of so many atheists. I wish Fallows could just get on with his life and accept that what he has rejected is gone for him - it might save him from silly critiques about Christians "needing heaven" to explain or deal with suffering on earth, which of course we don't. Heaven existed prior to sin and really compelling speculative theology on the purposes of the Fall is beyond his ken.

For those atheists who believe that in attacking faith they are striking a blow against the forces of political and cultural reaction in our society, I think they don't get how irrelevent and isolated they are in the U.S., but that's not my problem. Given that so far none of them has expressed even the slightest concern for the horrific record of anti-religious persecution in the last century or how some of their heroes (Dawkins and Hitchens) evince some nostalgia for the same I see no reason to not be happy that they are creating the foundations for a backlash. It will be ugly, but I'm not willing to see me and mine suffer or my country further confused so that the new bezbozhniki can rant in peace.

But I think one aspect of the argument that is interesting, and which Ross was trying to get at, is just how protected we are and how abstract the problem of evil is. In Africa, where the faith is growing by leaps and bounds (10 million in 1900, over 400 million Christians now) suffering is real yet there is not a lot of hand wringing over theodicy in a continent where all is not going wonderfully well. Here, where people are coseted from most harm, we are hair trigger quick to go to law or scream and rail against any kind of perceived or real injustice. Fallows article I guess can be considered theology for the entitlement generation which is driven to rail against the God they don't believe in because it is so tense wondering if one's 401K will really retain all its value. In that sense it is culturally interesting how even non-believers keep trying to use forms of Christian theology even when they have abandoned its substance.

Posted by David | June 9, 2008 5:21 AM
I couldn't let it stop there, since I'm such an argumentative prick, so I wrote this:

You mentioned Christianity in Africa but neglected to mention Joseph Kony and his Lords Resistance Army, a group of rabidly Christian terrorists who have been causing problems in Uganda for almost 20 years. I bring up Kony and the LRA not as evidence that religion leads to evil, which I don't believe, but to illustrate that we can spend all day swapping similar anecdotes and come no closer to disproving the fact that neither religionists nor atheists have a monopoly on atrocity.

I guess my ultimate point, put forth in a snarky manner, is that "the problem of evil" is only a problem if you assume that God is benevolent.

Christian teachings take that assumption for granted. John 3:16 and all that.

But absent revelatory biblical sources, what evidence do you have that God is benevolent?

Is it just something that you intuit based on the warm fuzzies you feel from time to time? If so, how is that any more valid than an atheist thinking that God, if he exists, is kind of jerk?

Posted by Herb | June 9, 2008 6:22 AM

Controversy Is as Controversy Does

I missed this part of the Clint Eastwood/Spike Lee story the first time around:
Defending the racial make-up in his films as historically accurate, Eastwood referred to another of his films, Changeling, which was set in Los Angeles before the city had a large group of African-Americans. "What are you going to do, you going to tell a fuckin' story about that?" he said. "Make it look like a commercial for an equal opportunity player? I'm not in that game. I'm playing it the way I read it historically, and that's the way it is. When I do a movie and it's 90% black, like Bird, then I use 90% black people.

"He was complaining when I did Bird (the 1988 biopic of Charlie Parker). Why would a white guy be doing that? I was the only guy who made it, that's why. He could have gone ahead and made it. Instead he was making something else."

Not willing to take Clint Eastwood's word that Spike used a racist rationale to criticize Bird, I looked it up. Seems to be true:
In interviews Lee had decried the inauthenticity of jazz films by white filmmakers--Clint Eastwood's "Bird" (1988) was a favorite target--claiming that, as the son of a genuine jazz musician, he was better qualified to depict that milieu.
That came up in the context of Spike's own jazz-film Mo' Better Blues.

My impression? Spike fans this controversy to gin up buzz on his movies. He doesn't really believe it.

He made Summer of Sam, after all, a movie where all the main characters were white. I also don't think he criticized Antoine Fuqua for doing King Arthur, also a movie with a white cast.

Basically, I think if you backed Spike into a corner, he'd admit that segregation is just as bad in film-making as it is in lunch counters and drinking fountains.

Here's hoping that someday we'll be free from the naysayers who say "You can't do that because you're white/black." Until then, we'll have these silly little arguments about race.

Colin Salmon or Patrick Stewart?

I'm usually pretty good at identifying voice over actors. I'll watch a car commercial and go, "That's Alec Baldwin!" I'm almost never wrong, and I am almost never stumped.

I am currently watching a documentary about the Serengeti narrated by Colin Salmon. He's not a household name in America, but you'd probably recognize him as the guy who got sliced and diced by a laser in the first Resident Evil movie.

Ten bucks says you would have mistook him for Patrick Stewart, especially in voice over.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Some Truth

So I'm reading this article about getting rid of cellulite, not that I'm trying to get rid of any cellulite but I'm a modern-day renaissance man and my interests dip into all arenas, and I read two sentences with more truth than anything I've read (or written) for days.

From Aina Hunter, cellulite-fighter:
I am aware that my physical obsessions are petty and psychologically destructive. I simply choose to indulge them in my free time.

That's how I feel about smoking. Hey, I know it's bad for me. I choose to do it anyway. If only most people had that kind of self-awareness and honesty, I think this world would be a better place. It's called taking responsibility.

More Truth

From Mahablog, who will probably get added to my blogroll:
If you are fighting for equality only for your particular slice of the demographic pie, then you aren’t fighting for equality but for favoritism.
Damn straight.

That's why I'm for gay marriage and against affirmative action. "Some animals are more equal than others?"

I don't think so.

Yet MORE Truth

From garden-blog You Grow Girl, whose landlord has no qualms about destroying her street garden:
...(T)hat’s all land and space means to people. Ownership. Property. Financial gain. I didn’t expect him to understand why I dug that garden, why I have spent countless hours over the years and many dollars buying plants and replacing the ones that have been destroyed.

As a gardening enthusiast with similar ideas, I second that.

But what exactly is the why? Gayla explains:
When a gardener nurtures a garden, they nurture themselves. I know this is a big part of why I have such a strong need to grow things and create. When I take time to create something I turn all of the hurt, loss, and pain I feel inside for having not been nurtured when I should have and I make something of it. The action involved in creating shows me what hope is and gives me a sense of agency that I can turn things around for myself, that I am not destined to hold onto the enormous weight of all of that pain and suffering for the whole of my life. It gives me hope for the state of the world. It gives me a picture of a world where people aren’t valued based on superficial bullshit and where I can play a role in making the world that I dream of.

Life In Africa

I'm watching a show about the Dinka of Sudan. It's interesting but also somewhat stomach-churning. For instance:

A) When their cows hesitate to produce milk, Dinka boys stimulate the cow's sexual organs with their mouths. Yes, you understood that right. They eat out a fucking cow. Disgusting.

B) To color their hair, they wash their heads in cow urine. Wait, let me be more specific. They let a cow pee on their heads.

Now I don't feel so weird for putting hot cocoa in my coffee. On the list of human quirks, that's way down on the list.