Sunday, January 31, 2010

Smiling Maniacally.: What I hate about pregnancy?:

Things you can and cannot eat are a perfect example - caffeine, sushi, alcohol, soft cheese, smoked salmon, and hollandaise sauce. Guess which one (1) I actually gave up throughout the entire pregnancy because only *one* of these actually posed a danger to the baby. You know, based on actual studies versus theoretical inferences.

And childbirth - there is so much mis-information out there about childbirth, labor, delivery, etc. and a lot of it is based, again, on theoretical inferences made back in the 1950s and 60s (like whether or not you should be able to eat/drink while you're in labor. Story in the NY Times about that today, in fact). We were interviewing post-partum doulas last week and I mentioned that I was hoping to avoid a c-section, and the doula replied, well, make sure you don't have an epidural then.

So that pretty much ended that interview. Correlation is not causation people.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Fraser Speirs - Blog - Future Shock:

For years we've all held to the belief that computing had to be made simpler for the 'average person'. I find it difficult to come to any conclusion other than that we have totally failed in this effort.

Secretly, I suspect, we technologists quite liked the idea that Normals would be dependent on us for our technological shamanism. Those incantations that only we can perform to heal their computers, those oracular proclamations that we make over the future and the blessings we bestow on purchasing choices.

I'm often saddened by the infantilising effect of high technology on adults. From being in control of their world, they're thrust back to a childish, mediaeval world in which gremlins appear to torment them and disappear at will and against which magic, spells, and the local witch doctor are their only refuges.

With the iPhone OS as incarnated in the iPad, Apple proposes to do something about this, and I mean really do something about it instead of just talking about doing something about it, and the world is going mental.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Trav S.D. on Downtown Theater:

“The Bike Trip” by Martin Dockery bills itself as a “breathtaking quest to uncover the nature of the psychedelic experience.” I had a chance to see sections from his last Frigid show “The Surprise” (one of the hits of last year). Dockery is a funny, engaging and mind-blowing actor. I think if we throw an acid trip into the mix we can be assured of a rambunctious ride.

William McGuire asks:

"With the availability of the keyboard dock (any info on the price?), does anyone see the iPad as a laptop killer as well?"

Definitely. Given some more software, some way to print documents and photos, and it'll do it. Today it's a sidekick device but a few years from now... well, when I reviewed the original iPhone in 2007 I declared that the Mac and PC's "proxy interaction" model of mouse-and-screen were dead, they just didn't know it yet. Today I have the proof. Pro laptops will survive, but I think consumer laptops are going to become an endangered species.

Jo Hoffberg & Sharon Davis
Insanely great? Ars reacts to the Apple iPad:

When I leave the apartment for anything beyond local errands, I'm almost invariably carrying both a cell phone for communicating and a laptop for getting work done. A truly useful device would be one that could let me leave one of those devices and its added bulk, cables, and worries about charge status at home. The iPhone went a little way towards that dream—it was a phone, but its ability to handle a bit of web browsing and some light e-mail meant that leaving the laptop at home was possible in a few additional circumstances—but, for the most part, I'm still stuck lugging two devices.

The iPad doesn't fix that. It's clearly not a phone, so my phone would still have to come with me. It would do a better job of e-mail and web browsing than the iPhone but, if I'm carrying one of those anyway, that's not a huge help. On the other side of its category divide, the iPad might add a few more cases where a laptop is unnecessary, but very few. I'm a touch typist; I take notes on presentations while watching the speaker, and I am often writing in one application while looking over a document in a second. With no physical keyboard and no multitasking, the iPad simply wouldn't work for me. It's just too limited to mean I could leave my laptop home any more often than I already do.

Apple looks like it nailed its target of creating a truly distinct device that's somewhere in between the phone and the laptop. And, for precisely that reason, it doesn't seem like it would be all that useful to me.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Letters of Note: Ordinary standards do not apply to Tesla:

On January 4th, 1943, Slovenian-American author Louis Adamic wrote the following heartfelt letter to ex-President of the United States, Herbert Hoover. The letter concerned the alarming treatment and general well-being of Adamic's friend, Nikola Tesla; an immeasurably important inventor whose impact on the modern world is still difficult to appreciate and who, despite his numerous groundbreaking scientific achievements, was at the time of writing severely in debt and in worryingly ill-health.

Hoover immediately forwarded the letter to the IEEE, but to no avail; just three days after it was written, Tesla passed away in the hotel room in which he had lived for the past ten years.

Transcript follows.
Fade IN...
Open letter to the new Apple iTablet:

And what of your appearance? Your materials? Will you be razor thin and gleaming like the mysteries of the fifth dimension? Made of rhodium, dark matter and the hymens of lost pagan goddesses? Will you smell like cake, feel like baby skin and taste like the hot roadkill of love? No one has a goddamn clue. Hence, the excitement, as they say, mounteth.

One thing we now know for sure: You will appear in a burst of dazzle in just a few short days at another special Apple media event, revealed in all your iWonderglory, ogled and cheered and turned over in the hand like an electric gemstone unearthed by trembling archaeologists who do not dress very well and seldom have sex.
Hotel Humboldt
MTA Security Overhaul "May Never be Completed" - Gothamist:

The MTA says its biggest security overhaul in history "is taking too long, costing too much" and now it's running out of money. The agency has only $59 million left in the bank for the program—not nearly enough for the installation of motion sensor cameras and other high-tech gadgets at every subway station.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Economic View - Will More Borrowers Walk Away From Their Mortgages? -

Some homeowners may keep paying because they think it’s immoral to default. This view has been reinforced by government officials like former Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr., who while in office said that anyone who walked away from a mortgage would be “simply a speculator — and one who is not honoring his obligation.” (The irony of a former investment banker denouncing speculation seems to have been lost on him.)
Why computers should be more like toasters. - By Farhad Manjoo - Slate Magazine:

Yet this sort of thinking breaks down when you compare the PC with every other consumer product. An automobile is both much more physically capable and dangerous than a computer, and yet nobody has to understand how a car works in order to drive. Sure, we require people who are operating motor vehicles to receive special training, but the training is mainly about the rules of the road. Actually using the car—learning what the steering wheel, gears, and pedals do—is a five-minute process and does not require a lesson in internal combustion. And what do you need to do to maintain a car? Almost nothing: Load it up with gas and take it in every few months to a guy who makes sure it's in working condition. When your car is in trouble, it doesn't issue a slew of warnings for you to interpret; it just says "check engine" and expects you to get expert help. Compare this with all the hassles of maintaining your computer: backing up your data, defragmenting your drive, checking for viruses, making sure your files are organized properly, occasionally reinstalling your operating system because things have gotten too gunked up, and on and on.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Playgoer: The Full-Price "Preview":

The term is becoming downright anachronistic. On the Broadway of old--as evident in old movies from "42nd Street" to "The Producers" plays truly "opened"--i.e. premiered--on "Opening Night" (after perhaps some open/invited dress rehearsals). Then by the 1960s, tickets would be available--at a DISCOUNT--for two or three pre-opening performances as a warm-up.

Off Broadway this didn't matter much I suppose since you were lucky to get the NY Times critic to come at all, let alone to your first night. But now, not only does everyone do "previews" but when the run is already limited and you control the schedule, some nonprofit companies have specialized in delaying official "opening" as long as possible so that if reviews are bad, the show will already be closing and thus unaffected. In other words, the preview period has been longer than the official "run." (I think Joe Papp pioneered that practice to get around critics.)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

How Obama's cool, detached temperament is hurting him and his party

Obama's coolness and detachment put him in a different category of president that includes Lincoln (on the positive side) and Jimmy Carter (on the negative). His relationship with the world is primarily rational and analytical rather than intuitive or emotional. As he acknowledged in his interview with George Stephanopoulos the day after Scott Brown's victory, his tendency to focus on substance can make him seem remote and technocratic. So while many people continue to deeply admire him, few come away from any encounter feeling closer to him. He is not warm, he is not loyal, he is not deeply involved with others. His most fervent enthusiasts tend to express love for the ideas he embodies and represents—America transcending its racial history, a fairer and more unified society, rationality, wise decision-making, and so forth—as opposed to for the man himself.
A cup full of Bokeh
A Honey of an Anklet - theater, conservation, the utterly mundane, and Etruscan 8-tracks » The Last Cargo Cult:

For a man who spends two hours sitting behind a desk and talking, Mike Daisey reveals an energy and grace in his movement worthy of a tai chi chuan master. Steepling his fingers to make a point, then softly melting them to the side, storyteller Daisey explores in his current offering at Woolly Mammoth the peculiarities of the natives in the islands called Vanuatu and the big island called Long, and shows them to be hilariously ridiculous in equal measures.

Friday, January 22, 2010

rainbow vortex
Oiling the Zipper - Theater - The Stranger, Seattle's Only Newspaper:

"I had no idea how to take off a glove or tease or take a long time to do anything," she says. "Or the little things you might not think of, like oiling your zipper." She has dozens of routines, but only a few favorites at any given time. In heavy rotation these days: "Vinyl and Stockings, where I wear vinyl and strangle myself at the end with my stockings; The Hussy, which is a bored-stripper routine; and Rand, a modern-dance tribute to Sally Rand, which I do to a string-­quartet cover of a Tool song. I use a five-and-a-half-foot balloon. It's bigger than me." And her Poodle Number, which involves a rhinestone doggy dish, a bone, and 100 balloons, which Carnell blows up (and then pops) herself.
Yesterday's Supreme Court Ruling that Corporations Have More First Amendment Rights Than Citizens | Slog | The Stranger, Seattle's Only Newspaper:

The majority, consisting entirely of justices appointed by Republican presidents, held that the First Amendment rights of corporations cannot be distinguished from those of natural born citizens. In dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens observed: “Under the majority's view, I suppose it may be a First Amendment problem that corporations are not permitted to vote, given that voting is, among other things, a form of speech."

The ruling effectively guts McCain-Feingold and other campaign finance legislation as it applies to corporations. Presumably, any existing or contemplated effort by states to restrict corporate political spending in state elections is also now doomed by this precedent.

The implications of this ruling boggle the mind. In the long term, corporations will be able to give unlimited money to candidates who favor their positions. What chance will any state or federal legislative effort to reform, or tax, or regulate business now have? How much would it be worth to Big Pharma and the insurance industry to unseat enough members of Congress to kill health care reform permanently?
Taboo, the movie
Emille Bell (01)
Music Review - Lady Gaga - Lady Gaga at Radio City - Lavish Worlds, and the Headwear to Match -

No one in pop is more audacious about headwear. Onstage and in photos on video screens, she wore Egyptian-deity golden armor, antlers, a shiny red chauffeur’s hat, a spiked black hood and an exoskeletonlike helmet, not to mention bondage-style rings connecting her head to a bar held up by two men. It’s hard to say what that had to do with “Paparazzi” — which mingles love, stalking and media awareness — but even when connections were cryptic, the show had its own momentum.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

BrightestYoungThings: PlayDC: Last Cargo Cult @ Woolly Mammoth:

Mike Daisey is one hell of a story-teller–even a seasoned raconteur would have difficulty weaving together such disparate plot-points as an America-revering island culture, the wonders of IKEA, and the cost of a sandwich in the Hamptons. But Daisey does it seamlessly in Woolly Mammoth’s The Last Cargo Cult, delivering a monologue that is at once a hilarious account of adventure-travel and a searing indictment of the global financial system.
Supreme Court Says Corporations Can Spend As Much as They Want on Getting Their Friends Elected - Supreme Court - Gawker:

The conservative majority on the Supreme Court reiterated their utterly insane opinion that corporations are people today as they struck down restrictions on campaign spending by corporations in a decision that everyone expected but that is depressing nonetheless.

(A lot of people are reporting that this is good news for unions, but they are generally eliding the important point that Goldman Sachs has a lot more money than the UAW. And, to recap: corporations are people and money is speech.)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

glasgow science centre and plough
How Do We Get More Masterpieces? - Parabasis:

I was strolling through wikipedia today, and it's worth noting how many plays many beloved playwrights had written and produced before their masterpieces. Because we ignore the first half of the saying "took my whole life to be an overnight success," this gets obfuscated. Yes, there are some Young Geniuses... but there are a lot of Old Masters. My favorite example of this being Tony Kushner, who people seem to think wrote Bright Room and then Angels but had, in fact, written (and produced) thirteen plays prior to writing Millennium Approaches. Sam Shepard had over a decade of film and theatre writing experience prior to Buried Child. Tennessee Williams wrote eight plays before Streetcar. Eugene O'Neill had been writing for twenty years before he wrote most of what is considered his major works (and don't get me started on Moliere or Shakespeare).

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

This is hard to believe--this is a CEASE AND DESIST LETTER served to an artist for posting the text of a review of their work on their website.

More here.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Why Jon Stewart failed to make John Yoo squirm:

But was "nailing" him ever a possibility? Yoo has slipped the grasp of many critics through the years. Part of the reason is his demeanor: calm, good-humored, endlessly patient. It throws people, especially those expecting a younger, Korean Dick Cheney.

But it's also Yoo's rhetorical skill. Stewart failed to "nail" Yoo not because he wasn't prepared. (Although perhaps Stewart could have quoted some of the harsher memos.) He failed because Yoo is a lawyer. The chief criticism against Yoo is that, as deputy assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Counsel after 9/11, he gave the Bush administration legal cover to torture suspected terrorists. In a time of war, he wrote in what became known as the "torture memos," the president has expanded power to make decisions without congressional approval. When it comes to what's torture and what's not, he wrote, only treatment that inflicts suffering equivalent to organ failure "or even death" constitutes torture. In later interviews, he suggested that nothing—no law and no treaty—could stop the president from ordering torture if the circumstances required it.

Yoo wasn't advocating these techniques, he can say. He was simply answering the question of whether the Constitution allows the president to make these decisions in a time of war. Even if his interpretation of the law led to the use of these techniques, that was the decision of the person ordering them—not the person who interpreted the law as allowing them.


Saturday, January 16, 2010

Review of Mike Daisey's 'Last Cargo Cult' at Woolly Mammoth Theatre - Washington Post:

Finally, the banking system has met its match. In "The Last Cargo Cult," the inimitable Mike Daisey harnesses pervasive contempt for the way many banks have handled the financial crisis and uses it to fuel a divine rant about how we have allowed money to ruin everything.

The monologue at Woolly Mammoth Theatre may constitute the finest hour -- actually, make that two hours -- ever devised by Daisey, a tale-spinner of amusingly footnoted outrage. His brand of bombast is perfectly calibrated for examinations of the colossal follies of our time. In this instance, he gets the meaty topic between his teeth and, like some carnivorous poet, gnaws it down to eloquent bone.


Thursday, January 14, 2010

There will be a profile of the monologues and Jean-Michele and my work on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED this evening.
BLOGORRHEA: Being here now:

Plenty of blame to go around, of course, but special attention is given to a bricks-and-mortar mentality that privileges institutionality over artistry and staff over artists. It’s an old argument with an obvious refutation, but Outrageous Fortune is singular in putting its finger squarely (if almost parenthetically) on the REAL problem.

Which is? Once you’ve created a bona fide institution, priorities necessarily change radically. From Board chair to box office, from artistic director to stage door guard, the mission of an institution and its dependents is to survive. No matter what its website says, whatever bland claims it espouses to being all about dynamic new theater, its rock bottom, honest to god mission in life is to survive at all costs. And I do mean all costs. Is it any wonder playwrights tend to feel less like they’re contributing to theater's raison d’être and more like they’re just plain in the way?
Money Talks: Mike Daisey and The Last Cargo Cult:

Mike Daisey has a money problem.

It isn’t that he has too little, or, God knows, too much. To hear the 36-year-old raconteur tell it, his money problem is the same one that afflicts us all.

“Money — currency — is corrosive to human relationships,” he says flatly. “It corrodes the human connections that create communities, and replaces them with fiduciary connections.”
From Saturday Night
Haiti's real deal with the devil:

Summary: Haiti was forced to pay France for its freedom. When they couldn't afford the ransom, France (and other countries, including the United States) helpfully offered high-interest loans. By 1900, 80% of Haiti's annual budget went to paying off its "reparation" debt. They didn't make the last payment until 1947. Just 10 years later, dictator François Duvalier took over the country and promptly bankrupted it, taking out more high-interest loans to pay for his corrupt lifestyle. The Duvalier family, with the blind-eye financial assistance of Western countries, killed 10s of thousands of Haitians, until the Haitian people overthrew them in 1986. Today, Haiti is still paying off the debt of an oppressive dictator no one would help them get rid of for 30 years.

The rest of the world refuses to forgive this debt.

So, in a way, maybe Robertson is right. Haiti is caught in a deal with the devil, and the devil is us.


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Latest Mike Daisey monologue, tested in Portland, plays in D.C. | Oregon Performing Arts -

The monologuist Mike Daisey has been a favorite of Portland audiences over the past couple of years. In the Portland Institute for Contemporary Arts TBA:08 festival, Daisey presented two shows, "If You See Something, Say Something" (about the Department of Homeland Security, more or less) and "Monopoly!" (about capitalism, consumerism and the origins of the popular board game). His last visit here was this past August, when he performed a work-in-progress called "The Last Cargo Cult."
Theatre Ideas: Outrageous Fortune: Chapter 1: Build a Bridge, Don't Take Swimming Lessons:

Because, again, if you look back at theatre history, you see that this problem has already been solved. The Lord Chamberlain's Men didn't only produce Shakespeare, they had a relationship with many playwrights. Furthermore, Shakespeare wasn't only a playwright, but also an actor and a shareholder in the theatre. Moliere's troupe did Moliere's plays, yes, but also the plays of other playwrights (such as Jean Racine), who they also nurtured. The Moscow Art Theatre didn't only do Chekhov's plays, but many others as well.

But these theatres did a lot of productions, so they needed a lot of plays. As long as regional theatres only do a handful of productions each year, and only a small percentage of those are devoted to new plays, then the worried artistic director quoted above is right to be concerned. The answer, however, is to do more plays.

Plastic Camera Makeover DIY
With 'The Last Cargo Cult,' Mike Daisey invests himself in financial crisis -

The health-care system was supposed to be the topic of monologuist Mike Daisey's new piece, commissioned by Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company. He'd already done "If You See Something, Say Something" and "How Theater Failed America" at Woolly with considerable success. Audiences took to his gimlet-eyed extemporaneous (he uses only an outline) views of nuclear weapons and nonprofit theater, respectively.

Anyway, as Daisey remembers it, the "financial crisis was melting down" and his anger about it was boiling up. So a health-care piece was put on hold. And that is how "The Last Cargo Cult" was born. Daisey has brought the monologue, first workshopped at Woolly in June, back to the theater through Feb. 7. In the interim, he performed it at New York's Public Theater and around the country.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

An Angry White Guy in Chicago: Stick Your Government Arts Subsidy in This Hole:

And, here, boys and girls, comes the pitch: instead of giving a single dollar to individual artists or collectives, combine the dough and subsidize community venues like the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs programs.

The (edward) Hopper Project is a huge achievement for my tiny little, stubbornly non-commercial theater company. The budget clocked in at roughly $7,000.00 from stem to stern. Had we not been invited to perform at the government subsidized Storefront Theater, it would have cost us an additional $12,000.00 - which means it would not have happened at all.

As a model for a nationwide network of professionally run, adjudicated work culled from the tiny companies and individual artists - from theater to dance to stationary art - this not only addresses issues of diversity in terms of the variety of voices accommodated but can also address the Prof's problem with the major urban areas stranglehold on the national reputation as centers of highest quality art.
What are we all destined for?
M.I.A. Teams With Blaqstarr, Verizon Workers for Summer Disc : Rolling Stone : Rock and Roll Daily:

The new tracks include “I Fight the Ones That Fight Me” and “I’m Down Like Your Internet Connection,” which actually features Filipino Verizon workers singing the hook. “I was having issues with my cable and wireless, and I was on the phone [with tech support] for three hours, and I thought, ‘Maybe this needs to be part of my music, could you just learn these lyrics and sing it down the phone to me?’ Ten phone calls later, I have Internet that sticks and a song.”
Going underground
Sometimes "WTF?" is the only rational response to a situation:

When hit in the throat by a Spanish fascist bullet that managed to bypass his spinal cord, his larynx, and his carotid artery, George Orwell grew tired of those who visited him in the hospital and congratulated him on how lucky he had been. If he was such a favorite of fortune, he ended up growling, then perhaps he would not have been shot in the neck in the first place.
Arsenal FC: Views of the Emirates Stadium 022

Monday, January 11, 2010

Theatre Ideas: Lyn Gardner: "We Need to Act Now to Save Theatre":

Indeed. Over on our side of the pond, we regularly ask the questions -- Outrageous Fortunes is the most recent report to expose the problems. It wasn't that long ago when it was Mike Daisey. We all have a pretty good sense that There Is a Problem. The real problem, however, is that we can't quite get around to actually changing anything. Instead, we spend most of our time picking holes in the ideas of those who actually have proposals, pointing out all the reasons why we ought to just keep on doing what we're doing until the Perfect Solution is proposed.

Well, guess what? There is no Perfect Solution. There are just going to be a bunch of imperfect attempts that will move the ball forward a little bit at a time. If we wait for the Perfect Solution, or keep simply asking questions and making complaints without actually taking action, a decade from now the theatre will have gone the way of the horse and carriage.

inverse psychology

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Facebook's Zuckerberg Says The Age of Privacy is Over:

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg told a live audience yesterday that if he were to create Facebook again today, user information would by default be public, not private as it was for years until the company changed dramatically in December.

In a six-minute interview on stage with TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington, Zuckerberg spent 60 seconds talking about Facebook's privacy policies. His statements were of major importance for the world's largest social network - and his arguments in favor of an about-face on privacy deserve close scrutiny.

Lyrics 6: "Die Befindlichkeit des Landes" by Einsturzende Neubauten
For Wall St., Question on Top Bonuses Is 7 Figures or 8 -

Bank executives are grappling with a question that exasperates, even infuriates, many recession-weary Americans: Just how big should their paydays be? Despite calls for restraint from Washington and a chafed public, resurgent banks are preparing to pay out bonuses that rival those of the boom years. The haul, in cash and stock, will run into many billions of dollars.

Industry executives acknowledge that the numbers being tossed around — six-, seven- and even eight-figure sums for some chief executives and top producers — will probably stun the many Americans still hurting from the financial collapse and ensuing Great Recession.

Goldman Sachs is expected to pay its employees an average of about $595,000 apiece for 2009, one of the most profitable years in its 141-year history. Workers in the investment bank of JPMorgan Chase stand to collect about $463,000 on average.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Stop the panic on air security -

We're going to beef up airport security, because Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab allegedly snuck a bomb through a security checkpoint. We're going to intensively screen Nigerians, because he is Nigerian. We're going to field full body scanners, because they might have noticed the PETN that authorities say was hidden in his underwear. And so on.

We're doing these things even though security worked. The security checkpoints, even at their pre-9/11 levels, forced whoever made the bomb to construct a much worse bomb than he would have otherwise. Instead of using a timer or a plunger or another reliable detonation mechanism, as would any commercial user of PETN, he had to resort to an ad hoc homebrew -- and a much more inefficient one, involving a syringe, and 20 minutes in the lavatory, and we don't know exactly what else -- that didn't explode.

The A-Team - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

By this time, Murdock will escape from the psychiatric hospital, where he is interned, with the help of Face. After scamming items necessary for the mission - often directly angering the episode's antagonist - the A-Team will confront that antagonist, insulting him/her, which will lead to a counter-attack later on.

Generally, the A-Team then assist their clients in their daily routine, while furthering Face's romance with the female guest star and initiating a conflict between B.A. and Murdock.
These scenes will usually also feature clients and the team alike questioning Hannibal's sanity, leading to the proclamation that Hannibal is "on the jazz", a term to denote the adrenaline rush that accompanies their adventures.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Wallace Shawn Up to His Neck in Being American at BAM - Gothamist:

During the Q&A that followed, moderator Daniel Menaker asked Wallace Shawn about his dogged political dissidence and wondered, "Why don't you just give up?" After a long pause, Shawn replied:

Well, I'm still alive. I'm not extinguished. This is a grim moment and, you know, between irrationality and greed (if you're going list qualities that are dangerous), the planet is terribly threatened and a lot of people are being squashed as we sit here. But in my lifetime I have seen political action have some effect. And for me to give up, while still keeping everything that I have, I would be actively making things worse every day without even any attempt to make them better. I mean, I do believe that our lives are rather harmful, just by leading the bourgeois life that most of the people in this room live, we are hurting other people and we are certainly allowing much more violent things than we see in our own lives to be done to people we don't see in other countries. We're doing stuff every day and it would be quite unseemly for us, probably, to give up.

It was a funny exchange to listen to while sipping wine on a full stomach.

Blà Bheinn
Angry Lawmakers Want to Bring Tim Geithner to Justice -- Daily Intel:

Despite the New York Fed and the White House's insistence that the New York Fed's decision to cover up the details of the $62 billion it orchestrated in payouts to financial institutions from an ailing AIG was not made by then–Fed President Tim Geithner — such decisions were below his pay grade, according to their statements — representatives for the House Financial Services Committee still want to see the Treasury Secretary in their offices, stat.
Nil by mouth - Roger Ebert's Journal:

I mentioned that I can no longer eat or drink. A reader wrote: "That sounds so sad. Do you miss it?" Not so much really. Not anymore. Understand that I was never told that after surgery I might lose the ability to eat, drink and speak. Eating and drinking were not mentioned, and it was said that after surgery I might actually be able to go back to work on television.
Snowglobe? [95/365]

Thursday, January 07, 2010

"To do evil a human being must first of all believe that what he’s doing is good . . . Ideology—that is what gives evildoing its long-sought justification and gives the evildoer the necessary steadfastness and determination. That is the social theory which helps to make his acts seem good instead of bad in his own and others’ eyes, so that he won’t hear reproaches and curses but will receive praise and honors. That was how the agents of the Inquisition fortified their wills: by invoking Christianity; the conquerors of foreign lands, by extolling the grandeur of their Motherland; the colonizers, by civilization; the Nazis, by race, and the Jacobins (early and late), by equality, brotherhood, and the happiness of future generations.

— Alexandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago.
Cold Cold Dawn
Michael J. Totten:

Hitchens is certainly famous, and is recognized on the street a lot more often than I am. A tall and slightly disheveled man in his fifties rudely interrupted our conversation outside the bar at one point and said "I can't remember your name, but I recognize you from YouTube."

"You should read more," Hitchens said. He didn't remind the man of his name.

Not two minutes later, an attractive young woman walked up to him, squeezed his arm gently, and said "I love you."

"How often does this happen?" I said.

"This," he said and smiled at the pretty young woman, "doesn't happen nearly enough. But that," he said and gestured to the man who recognized him from YouTube and would not go away, "happens too often."

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

The Atlantic Online | December 2009 | The Science of Success | David Dobbs:

Most of us have genes that make us as hardy as dandelions: able to take root and survive almost anywhere. A few of us, however, are more like the orchid: fragile and fickle, but capable of blooming spectacularly if given greenhouse care. So holds a provocative new theory of genetics, which asserts that the very genes that give us the most trouble as a species, causing behaviors that are self-destructive and antisocial, also underlie humankind’s phenomenal adaptability and evolutionary success. With a bad environment and poor parenting, orchid children can end up depressed, drug-addicted, or in jail—but with the right environment and good parenting, they can grow up to be society’s most creative, successful, and happy people.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Op-Ed Columnist - A Dangerous Dysfunction -

Some people will say that it has always been this way, and that we’ve managed so far. But it wasn’t always like this. Yes, there were filibusters in the past — most notably by segregationists trying to block civil rights legislation. But the modern system, in which the minority party uses the threat of a filibuster to block every bill it doesn’t like, is a recent creation.

The political scientist Barbara Sinclair has done the math. In the 1960s, she finds, “extended-debate-related problems” — threatened or actual filibusters — affected only 8 percent of major legislation. By the 1980s, that had risen to 27 percent. But after Democrats retook control of Congress in 2006 and Republicans found themselves in the minority, it soared to 70 percent.

Some conservatives argue that the Senate’s rules didn’t stop former President George W. Bush from getting things done. But this is misleading, on two levels.

First, Bush-era Democrats weren’t nearly as determined to frustrate the majority party, at any cost, as Obama-era Republicans. Certainly, Democrats never did anything like what Republicans did last week: G.O.P. senators held up spending for the Defense Department — which was on the verge of running out of money — in an attempt to delay action on health care.