Saturday, February 14, 2009

Saturday Playlist

1. Scott Walker: The Lady Came from Baltimore
2. She & Him: Sentimental Heart
3. Julie Brown: Earth Girls Are Easy
4. Tyrannosaurus Rex: Pavilions of Sun
5. Christina Aguilera: Fighter
6. The Rolling Stones: Gotta Get Away
7. Jack Nitzsche: I Gave You a Baby
8. Bob James: Angela (Theme from Taxi)
9. Aretha Franklin: I Get High
10. Erasure: Chains of Love

1. From Scott, one of Walker's four classic albums. I love anything he does.
2. Please, please let there be a second album. She & Him Volume One was my favorite album last year, by far.
3. The original version from Julie's Goddess in Progress EP. Four songs and a lot of fun.
4. I have yet to find the dispensable Marc Bolan album. This is off of A Beard of Stars, the last album before Tyrannosaurus Rex became T. Rex and invented glam rock.
5. I still dig this song. I love Christina's music, and I'm not ashamed to say so. I don't see this problem with pop music that everyone has.
6. From December's Children. I really love the Stones, but this is a song I forgot how much I liked
7. The score to Starman is an interesting one; it doesn't move much, there aren't a lot of highs and lows. But it's also very haunting and I really love it.
8. The entire song, about six minutes long. It's all instrumental and very relaxing and wistful. That seems like a weird combination, but that's what it does for me.
9. From the Sparkle soundtrack album. I really need to see that movie. I dig the soundtrack.
10. Erasure is always a good closer.

Aww, I Love You Too

Friday, February 13, 2009

Throwdown 2/13

Random thoughts, questions, and observations for the week. Special (and very long) personalized edition.

1. Dear Readers,
As you may have noticed by now, Electronic Cerebrectomy no longer allows anonymous comments. You have a couple of anonymous fucktards to thank for that, including one guy who’s still pissed off at me for dissing the woman he was cheating on his wife with after she let my girlfriend down, and another who rather stupidly thought that “you’re a fat lib” was the constructive answer to everything he disagreed with. Sorry if this inconveniences anyone, but there is a difference between personal attacks and disagreement over an issue, and you can always nab a quick Google ID to insult me with.

2. Dear Shenae Grimes (sp?),
I understand that you don’t want to expose yourself to sun damage or even skin cancer just to get a little color in your cheeks, but you are orange, dear. Have you seen Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory? Orange is not a sexy shade for a human being. You should just wash that garbage out and start a bold new trend of women on television with natural skin color. I mean, you don’t want to wash out the white balance, obviously, but you can use makeup for that, and it probably won’t turn you into an Oompa Loompa. Actually, I’ve just thought of another bold new trend you could start: go green. Seriously, color your skin green instead of orange. I think there are a whole slew of Trekkers out there who’d like that. I know I would. I’ve been waiting for green women since I was 10. I mean, if you’re going to give yourself a new skin color, why not something sexy?

3. Dear Mario Lopez,
Are you also in denial about being Hispanic? Because that's also obvious.

4. Dear Gossip Blogging Guys,
Are you really that upset that Mandy Moore is engaged to Ryan Adams? I mean, sure, she’s super cute, but who cares? What, you all had a shot with her, or something?

5. Dear Guy Who Bought This Nude Photo of Madonna for $37,5000,
Do you just not have the internet? Also, did you ever notice how the thick pubic hair and armpit hair distract from her moustache?

6. Dear Brett Ratner,
You’re making a movie out of Rob Liefeld’s fatheaded abortion of a comic book, Youngblood. Okay, you proved your point: there is no God. Oh, and that Hollywood really only wants to make explosion-and-muscle masturbation for 15 year-old aggressively heterosexual males (which is funny considering how gay those movies always turn out). Did you make some kind of bet with McG and Michael Bay to see who can make the worst movies of the decade? Because I think Michael Bay got a head start by going to work for the Crap Factory (aka DreamWorks).

7. Dear Hollywood,
Is it a bad sign that the first poster released for The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus is a foreign poster? Are you planning on releasing this movie at all? Why can’t you just cut Terry Gilliam a break for a change? Christ, 90% of the genre films that come out now are completely ripping him off, anyway. Can someone please just tell me where I can illegally download a copy of this and send my ten bucks directly to Terry Gilliam himself?

8. Dear Makers of The People vs. George Lucas,
I get it. You didn’t like the prequels. Now shut the fuck up and move on with your lives. You know what’s more pathetic than making a trilogy of fantasy movies the lynchpin of your entire self-image? Making an intense sublimation of your thinly-veiled frustration at being reminded you’re no longer ten the lynchpin of your entire self-image. You seriously need to get over it, stop crying into your Darth Vader pillowcases, and get a job.

9. Dear Carl,
Still having those nightmares about Carrot Top?

10. Dear Woman Who’s Suing Miley Cyrus for $4 billion for Making a Face in a Picture,
Get over it. Just get over it. Get a grip on reality. Yeah, she could have been more sensitive, but it’s happened, it’s done, and it’s time to move on. She made two lame apologies for it. Let it go. You don’t have the right to feel comfortable at every moment of every day, and you aren’t entitled to a payout because of your indignation. Suing on behalf of every Asian-American just shows how grand your idea of yourself is. Hey, I have to endure fat people getting made fun of constantly. Being fat, do you think I like it? No, I don’t. But I ignore it. If my first reaction was to get upset and sue somebody for not being sensitive at every moment of the day about hurting my feelings, I’d think something was very wrong with my view of the world. Get over yourself and go to work.

11. Dear Camera Manufacturers,
One of you should have signed Vanessa Hudgens to advertise your cameras after her nude pictures “leaked” back in 2007. How come no one thought of that?

12. Dear Danica Patrick,
I’m not sure what this has to do with car racing, but it is a great deal more interesting to watch.

13. Dear Pregnant Women,
Stop worrying about whether or not you look fat. At least you don’t look like an H.P. Lovecraft story.

14. Dear People Who Made This Shirt,
I’m not even a Buffy fan and I think this is fucking brilliant.

15. Dear Mad Magazine,
I miss your monthly brilliance already. Rest in peace, Planet Tad.

16. Dear Lackluster Video,
Do you really think adding video game rentals to your Netflix copy Total Access is going to save you financially? Think about how long people are going to keep those games, and therefore how much money you’re going to have to spend to have a decent number to send out to keep customers happy. Enjoy your sinkhole, suckers. Actually, it’s already been a sinkhole, so, enjoy making it bigger, suckers.

17. Dear Kansas National Guard,
You’ve just dismissed someone under the federal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy for the first time. Amy Brian fought in Iraq, was commended for her service, and was kicked out of the guard for kissing another woman in a Wal-Mart checkout line. This was apparently too much for the dignity of the service. That doesn’t make sense, since she’s obviously the bravest soldier you have: she’s brave enough to put her life on the line in order to defend her country and be vilified for it by ignorant asses with less character than her.

18. Dear James Gorman, Co-President of Morgan Stanley,
You can call it a “retention award” all you want, it’s still a bonus. Do you remember when you sacrificed your integrity, or was the process so gradual you didn’t notice it? Someone asked whether you knew what honesty was. That’s harsh. I think you honestly believe that the idiocy you’re spouting sounds believable to you.

19. Dear Dianne Feinstein,
You spineless weasel. Inserting language into the recovery that will allow Comcast and other ISPs to eradicate net neutrality… How much did they buy you for?

20. Dear Norm Coleman,
You said recently that God wanted you to continue to be a Senator. If that’s true, why didn’t God vote for you?

21. Dear Senator Gregg,
Thank you for stepping down. You were Obama’s worst pick for a cabinet position yet. But, come clean: did you really just step down because you didn’t want your office being scrutinized for all of those Abramoff favors? I mean, trading legislative favors for gifts… well, I can’t say I’m surprised. By the way, when you said you’d take Obama’s appointment on the condition that a Republican replace you in the Senate… didn’t Blagojevich just get removed from office for that kind of shit?

22. Dear Bill O’Reilly,
Good job on finally inspiring someone to murder people they disagree with. Congratulations on lowering the discourse to this level. I mean, I’m an opinionated asshole too, but I never incited anyone to murder anyone.

23. Dear Michael Steele,
So you’re a crook too, huh? Let’s see, you used campaign funds to pay your sister’s company for services. But the services were never rendered—and why would they be? Your sister’s company had gone under eleven months prior. Ouch. But that’s just funny. What’s really lame is the way you keep complaining that the recovery bill creates work, not jobs. You’re being intellectually dishonest, and you know it. Translating your bullshit fake griping, what you really mean is that it’s somehow bad that the recovery bill will put people to work, a lot of it government-contracted, instead of generating long term careers. What kind of thinking is that? The fact is our infrastructure is crumbling due to underfunding and inattention. Maintaining roads and bridges and buildings is work that needs to be done, right now, and the government should be paying people to do it. Jobs are important right now, and if you gave a damn about your constituents, you’d be honest about it. But you’re not honest. You’re a crook.

24. Dear Senator Vitter,
Obama is a dictator? Please. If he was a dictator, he’d have just signed the recovery bill in without letting your party drag its feet. Do you really think you’re the guy to lead the call for conservative values, Diaper Dave? Do you really think you’re not going to get called out for being a hypocrite? When are you people going to realize that you can be as conservative as you want in America, you just can’t force other people to act the way you think they should?

25. Dear Rod Blagojevich,
Saw some of the clips of you on Hannity. Did you think the Republicans were going to treat you better because you’re an embarrassment to the Democrats? Here’s a question you need to answer about the tapes: what, exactly, is the context in which it sounds okay to say you’re not going to “give away” a Senate seat without getting something in return?

26. Dear Republicans,
I think Debbie Wasserman Schultz is right and you just want to see the recovery bill fail. I find it hilariously stupid that you’ve been whining to the entire media about pork barrel spending in a bill with zero earmarks, negotiating in bad faith, trying to call the shots on a bill you won’t even vote for, and then claiming that the Democrats are being too partisan. You continue to prove your irrelevancy at every turn, and it’s going to hurt you big time in 2010. You’re honestly trying to obstruct everything President Obama does, and it’s just fucking funny because you don’t have the numbers to make too big a dent. And by the way, to those of you who are crying that Obama should be more like Reagan because Reagan’s ideas worked, he raised taxes, idiots. Seriously, Reagan is not that far in the past and you’re getting the history completely wrong. Stop pushing tax cuts! The tax cuts McCain voted for would’ve cost four times as much as the stimulus package! The Bush tax cuts have cost America $2 trillion so far, and thousands of jobs were lost. They were creating incentives for businesses to cut jobs.

27. Dear Dick Cheney and Karl Rove,
David Axelrod said this: “I was disappointed with the Vice President's comments, not because he said...stated the obvious which is that there are threats that are grave, but that he suggested that somehow the president's decisions on torture and Guantanimo would increase the likelihood of that. You know, one of the things that I've been impressed by is the graciousness that President Bush has shown during this transition period and the first weeks of this administration. When he left, he wished us the best -- and I believe that he meant that. Apparently the memo didn't circulate around the White House, because I've know...what I consider tasteless comments by the Vice President. Amazing comments by Karl Rove. You know, the last thing that I think we're looking for at this juncture is advice on fiscal integrity or ethics from Karl Rove. I mean, anyone who's read the newspapers for the last eight years would laugh at that.” I believe this is when the kids say “pwned.”

28. Dear Rahm Emanuel,
Don’t pull a muscle patting yourself on the back so hard for the recovery bill agreement. Do you really want the credit for throwing out spending programs? Those were programs meant to benefit children, but if you really want the credit for mortgaging their futures, I’ll be happy to give it to you.

29. Dear President Obama,
Stop picking Republicans to be in your cabinet. It ain’t gonna work. They don’t like you. At all. Let’s move on. You’re not going to get their support unless you can put together legislation that works, and maybe not even then. Fuck bipartisanship. Just do the job and rest on the results, not the intentions.

30. Dear Justice Department,
What the fuck? Seriously, what the fuck? Let’s review: Binyam Mohamed (illegally kidnapped, tortured with a scalpel to the genitals, and still held in Gitmo even though he’s been accused of no crime, and all he did was read a parody online of how to build an H-bomb) and four others tried to sue Boeing for their role in aiding the CIA to illegally fly detainees to torture camps outside of the country. When they sued, the Bush administration invoked a special defense of state secrets. The ACLU appealed, and now Eric Holder has invoked the same defense. I’ve seen people bend over backwards to try and explain this away, but the fact is that Obama’s Justice Department just pissed away their chance to stand up on civil liberties and failed in a miserable, disgraceful manner. IF you needed time to review the case, you could’ve just asked for an extension instead of being dismissive. Don’t act like this isn’t important: it is. Are you not planning on making people accountable, then? Are you no longer interested in rooting out the problems and prosecuting on the reprehensible, disgusting, illegal pattern of civil rights abuse of the Bush administration? You need to charge people with crimes over illegal renditions and torture. Closing Gitmo is not enough. You just showed that America still isn’t interested in human rights.

31. Dear America,
Last weekend, the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America led hundreds in protest outside the homes of the CEOs of Morgan Stanley and Greenwich Finance. I’m just putting it out there. It’s perfectly legal. Let them know how you feel. The people living in shanty towns now because they’ve lost their homes… why not try to crash at the home of the CEO whose company didn’t deal with you fairly in the first place? Come on, America, doesn’t anyone protest anymore? Shut down the industries and force them to deal with it. And write and call your damn Congresspersons, already.

32. Dear Canada,
I just read Fareed Zakaria’s column about your banking system. The World Economic Forum ranked your banking system as the healthiest in the world. America’s is the 40th. Canada is doing extremely well with the economic crisis. You never deregulated your banks and financial industries. Your housing prices have not fluctuated as wildly. Your tax code never gave you the incentives to overconsume, like ours did. You’re fiscally responsible. You’ve had budget surpluses for 12 years. Your national pension system is solvent and your universal health care is cheaper than our failing insurance-based system. You have a higher life expectancy. You have a better immigration system than ours. American companies are beginning to migrate north. And your comedians are, as a rule, funnier than ours. America should be much, much more like you.

33. Dear Readers,
I’m ending with a picture of cute baby bunnies because, I’ve been told repeatedly, even the people who like the Throwdown find its beginning with frivolity and ending with cold political news extremely depressing. Plus, they're really fucking cute and I need them on my blog.
Dear Baby Bunnies,

True Love

TV Report: The Weirdest (and Therefore Awesomest) Reference Ever

Last night on 30 Rock, Alec Baldwin's Jack Donaghey gave a long confession to a Catholic priest of some of the horrible things he's done in the past. While most were mentions of things we've seen in other episodes, the one that really stood out for me was "I once said 'I am God' during a deposition." Which, I'm surprised anyone remembers, Alec Baldwin did do in the 1993 movie Malice, directed by Harold Becker and co-starring Nicole Kidman. It's always been a weirdly memorable moment to me, not least of which because Carl and I went around quoting it for a while from the silly preview. (The movie itself ain't too bad.) Now there's a reference you absolutely do not expect.

This is yet another reason I love Tina Fey. We're on the same wavelength.

An Onslaught of Watchmen Images

Go to /Film to see many more.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Abraham Lincoln: 200 Years

"Upon the subject of education, not presuming to dictate any plan or system respecting it, I can only say that I view it as the most important subject which we as a people can be engaged in."

"These capitalists generally act harmoniously and in concert to fleece the people, and now that they have got into a quarrel with themselves, we are called upon to appropriate the people's money to settle the quarrel."

"I have now come to the conclusion never again to think of marrying, and for this reason; I can never be satisfied with anyone who would be blockhead enough to have me."

"It will not do to investigate the subject of religion too closely, as it is apt to lead to Infidelity."

"Allow the President to invade a neighboring nation whenever he shall deem it necessary to repel an invasion, and you allow him to do so whenever he may choose to say he deems it necessary for such purpose, and you allow him to make war at pleasure. Study to see if you can fix any limit to his power in this respect, after having given him so much as you propose. If to-day he should choose to say he thinks it necessary to invade Canada to prevent the British from invading us, how could you stop him? You may say to him, — 'I see no probability of the British invading us'; but he will say to you, 'Be silent: I see it, if you don't.'"

"The true rule, in determining to embrace, or reject any thing, is not whether it have any evil in it; but whether it have more of evil, than of good. There are few things wholly evil, or wholly good. Almost every thing, especially of governmental policy, is an inseparable compound of the two; so that our best judgment of the preponderance between them is continually demanded."

"Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation, we began by declaring that 'all men are created equal.' We now practically read it 'all men are created equal, except negroes.' When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read 'all men are created equal, except negroes, and foreigners, and catholics.' When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretence of loving liberty — to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be take pure, and without the base alloy of hypocracy [sic]."

"Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves; and, under a just God, can not long retain it."

"Understanding the spirit of our institutions to aim at the elevation of men, I am opposed to whatever tends to degrade them."

"We know, Southern men declare that their slaves are better off than hired laborers amongst us. How little they know, whereof they speak! There is no permanent class of hired laborers amongst us...Free labor has the inspiration of hope; pure slavery has no hope."

"Neither let us be slandered from our duty by false accusations against us, nor frightened from it by menaces of destruction to the Government nor of dungeons to ourselves. Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it."

"Our popular government has often been called an experiment. Two points in it our people have already settled — the successful establishing and the successful administering of it. One still remains — its successful maintenance against a formidable internal attempt to overthrow it. It is now for them to demonstrate to the world that those who can fairly carry an election can also suppress a rebellion; that ballots are the rightful and peaceful successors of bullets; and that when ballots have fairly and constitutionally decided, there can be no successful appeal back to bullets... Such will be a great lesson of peace: teaching men that what they cannot take by election, neither can they take it by war; teaching all the folly of being the beginners of a war."

"Labor is prior to and independent of capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration. Capital has its rights, which are as worthy of protection as any other rights. Nor is it denied that there is, and probably always will be, a relation between labor and capital producing mutual benefits."

"The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall our selves, and then we shall save our country."

"I have always thought that all men should be free; but if any should be slaves, it should be first those who desire it for themselves, and secondly, those who desire it for others. When I hear anyone arguing for slavery, I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally."

"It is to deny, what the history of the world tells us is true, to suppose that men of ambition and talents will not continue to spring up amongst us. And, when they do, they will as naturally seek the gratification of their ruling passion, as others have so done before them. The question then, is, can that gratification be found in supporting and maintaining an edifice that has been erected by others? Most certainly it cannot. Many great and good men sufficiently qualified for any task they should undertake, may ever be found, whose ambition would inspire to nothing beyond a seat in Congress, a gubernatorial or a presidential chair; but such belong not to the family of the lion, or the tribe of the eagle. What! think you these places would satisfy an Alexander, a Caesar, or a Napoleon? — Never! Towering genius disdains a beaten path. It seeks regions hitherto unexplored. — It sees no distinction in adding story to story, upon the monuments of fame, erected to the memory of others. It denies that it is glory enough to serve under any chief. It scorns to tread in the footsteps of any predecessor, however illustrious. It thirsts and burns for distinction; and, if possible, it will have it, whether at the expense of emancipating slaves, or enslaving freemen. Is it unreasonable then to expect, that some man possessed of the loftiest genius, coupled with ambition sufficient to push it to its utmost stretch, will at some time, spring up among us? And when such a one does, it will require the people to be united with each other, attached to the government and laws, and generally intelligent, to successfully frustrate his designs."

"Passion has helped us; but can do so no more. It will in future be our enemy. Reason, cold, calculating, unimpassioned reason, must furnish all the materials for our future support and defence. — Let those materials be moulded into general intelligence, sound morality, and in particular, a reverence for the constitution and laws: and, that we improved to the last; that we remained free to the last; that we revered his name to the last; that, during his long sleep, we permitted no hostile foot to pass over or desecrate his resting place; shall be that which to learn the last trump shall awaken our WASHINGTON. Upon these let the proud fabric of freedom rest, as the rock of its basis; and as truly as has been said of the only greater institution, 'the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.'"

"Or perhaps I should rather say that whether it has such application depends upon whether a negro is not or is a man. If he is not a man, in that case he who is a man may as a matter of self-government do just what he pleases with him. But if the negro is a man, is it not to that extent a total destruction of self-government to say that he too shall not govern himself. When the white man governs himself, that is self-government; but when he governs himself and also governs another man, that is more than self-government — that is despotism. If the negro is a man, why then my ancient faith teaches me that 'all men are created equal,' and that there can be no moral right in connection with one man's making a slave of another."

"What I do say is that no man is good enough to govern another man without that other's consent. I say this is the leading principle, the sheet-anchor of American republicanism. Our Declaration of Independence says: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident: That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.' I have quoted so much at this time merely to show that, according to our ancient faith, the just powers of governments are derived from the consent of the governed. Now the relation of master and slave is pro tanto a total violation of this principle. The master not only governs the slave without his consent, but he governs him by a set of rules altogether different from those which he prescribes for himself. Allow all the governed an equal voice in the government, and that, and that only, is self-government."

"This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing Government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it or their revolutionary right to dismember or overthrow it."

"I am naturally anti-slavery. If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong. I can not remember when I did not so think, and feel. And yet I have never understood that the Presidency conferred upon me an unrestricted right to act officially upon this judgment and feeling. It was in the oath I took that I would, to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States. I could not take the office without taking the oath. Nor was it my view that I might take an oath to get power, and break the oath in using the power. I understood, too, that in ordinary civil administration this oath even forbade me to practically indulge my primary abstract judgment on the moral question of slavery. I had publicly declared this many times, and in many ways. And I aver that, to this day, I have done no official act in mere deference to my abstract judgment and feeling on slavery. I did understand however, that my oath to preserve the constitution to the best of my ability, imposed upon me the duty of preserving, by every indispensable means, that government — that nation — of which that constitution was the organic law."

Charles Darwin: 200 Years

"There is one living spirit, prevalent over this world ... which assumes a multitude of forms according to subordinate laws. There is one thinking sensible principle allied to one kind of organic matter."

"We can allow satellites, planets, suns, universe, nay whole systems of universe, to be governed by laws, but the smallest insect, we wish to be created at once by special act."

"Our faculties are more fitted to recognize the wonderful structure of a beetle than a Universe."

"I feel most deeply that this whole question of Creation is too profound for human intellect. A dog might as well speculate on the mind of Newton! Let each man hope and believe what he can."

"Physiological experiment on animals is justifiable for real investigation, but not for mere damnable and detestable curiosity."

"Mathematics seems to endow one with something like a new sense."

"As for a future life, every man must judge for himself between conflicting vague probabilities."

"A republic cannot succeed till it contains a certain body of men imbued with the principles of justice and honour."

"I thank God, I shall never again visit a slave-country."

"Those who look tenderly at the slave owner, and with a cold heart at the slave, never seem to put themselves into the position of the latter; what a cheerless prospect, with not even a hope of change! picture to yourself the chance, ever hanging over you, of your wife and your little children — those objects which nature urges even the slave to call his own — being torn from you and sold like beasts to the first bidder! And these deeds are done and palliated by men, who profess to love their neighbours as themselves, who believe in God, and pray that his Will be done on earth! It makes one's blood boil, yet heart tremble, to think that we Englishmen and our American descendants, with their boastful cry of liberty, have been and are so guilty..."

"If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down. But I can find out no such case."

"To suppose that the eye with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree. When it was first said that the sun stood still and the world turned round, the common sense of mankind declared the doctrine false; but the old saying of Vox populi, vox Dei, as every philosopher knows, cannot be trusted in science."

"There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved."

"It has often and confidently been asserted, that man's origin can never be known: Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science."

"As man advances in civilisation, and small tribes are united into larger communities, the simplest reason would tell each individual that he ought to extend his social instincts and sympathies to all the members of the same nation, though personally unknown to him. This point being once reached, there is only an artificial barrier to prevent his sympathies extending to the men of all nations and races. If, indeed, such men are separated from him by great differences in appearance or habits, experience unfortunately shews us how long it is, before we look at them as our fellow-creatures."

"It may be doubted whether any character can be named which is distinctive of a race and is constant."

"False facts are highly injurious to the progress of science, for they often endure long; but false views, if supported by some evidence, do little harm, for every one takes a salutary pleasure in proving their falseness."

"The moral faculties are generally and justly esteemed as of higher value than the intellectual powers. But we should bear in mind that the activity of the mind in vividly recalling past impressions is one of the fundamental though secondary bases of conscience. This affords the strongest argument for educating and stimulating in all possible ways the intellectual faculties of every human being."

"We must, however, acknowledge, as it seems to me, that man with all his noble qualities, with sympathy which feels for the most debased, with benevolence which extends not only to other men but to the humblest living creature, with his god-like intellect which has penetrated into the movements and constitution of the solar system — with all these exalted powers — Man still bears in his bodily frame the indelible stamp of his lowly origin."

"I can indeed hardly see how anyone ought to wish Christianity to be true; for if so the plain language of the text seems to show that the men who do not believe, and this would include my Father, Brother, and almost all my best friends, will be everlastingly punished. And this is a damnable doctrine."

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this past week.

Meh. Meh with not nearly enough Kristen Bell. It's a trifle about a guy who tries to sell fifty pills of ecstasy in one day in order to pay his college tuition. Bell, looking too sophisticated for college, is the girl he can't get up the nerve to reveal his completely obvious feelings to. Some okay diversions, and Michael Pena is kind of funny as a drug addict. Overall mediocre. *1/2 stars.

Surprisingly strong directorial debut from writer Scott Frank. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is probably the best I've seen him yet as a brain-damaged bank janitor who was once a hockey golden boy. He ends up connecting with Matthew Goode and Isla Fisher, who lure him into taking part in the robbery of his own bank. Of course, they're setting him up to take the fall, but there are some decent twists and turns along the way. Honestly, the robbery plot is just gravy on what works as a character piece. Gordon-Levitt is very good, and I actually wouldn't have minded just seeing a movie about his life and falling in love with Isla Fisher. I think, in some sense, there's a missed opportunity here. I mean, the robbery plot works, but like a lot of movies it settles into turning the characters into puppets of action thriller tropes in the third act. Still, it's pretty strong. Jeff Daniels is also good as Gordon-Levitt's blind friend (but he's good in everything). ***1/2 stars.

I didn't think this could live up to the hype, but it honestly did. Like most satires, the sharp satirization in the opening allows the film to become what it's actually satirizing; so the film about five actors starring in an over-the-top action flick becomes an over-the-top action flick. But a very, very good over-the-top action flick. You've heard over and over again that Robert Downey Jr is amazingly good, but you've heard it over and over again because it's true. He outdoes himself; he fully characterizes his role and makes him the funniest person in the movie, which is not an easy thing to do. Everyone supports him (although Ben Stiller and Jack Black are funny, they don't do anything surprising; Jay Baruchel, however, proves that he needs more Hollywood roles). Matthew McConaughey, an actor I'm very tired of, puts in some hilarious appearances, and the much-hated Tom Cruise (by me, at least) is, credit where it's due, incredibly funny as a studio head. (But not so funny he needs his own movie, as I've been hearing might happen; once, it's funny--any more will be annoying.) As always, I really dug Steve Coogan. Nick Nolte is an actor I never think I like, but then I see him and he's pitch perfect. And I think I've only seen him in three movies now, but I already love Danny McBride. One of the best movies I've seen from 2008, one of the best action movies I've seen in years, and definitely the best movie Ben Stiller has ever directed (although I did like The Cable Guy and Zoolander). (Cynical comment: of course, isn't just Three Amigos, but funnier?) **** stars.

Funny. Stupid, but genuinely funny. Have I seen star Dan Fogler before? He's not bad. And Christopher Walken, as a Chinese warlord, is hilarious (and clearly enjoying himself). I should be sick of seeing Walken play parts like this, but here he really works it. And it's nice to see Aisha Tyler for a change; she's like an amazon in this movie. *** stars.

Meh. Billy Bob Thornton can play this role in his sleep (and practically does). I love my Susie Sarandon so much; can we get her one of those FX or TNT series for women over 45 who can't get good movie roles anymore? Or is she just going to play moms with nothing to do now? **1/2 stars.

I was absolutely not looking forward to this movie. And having seen it, there are things I really didn't like about it. But those were all superficial things. At the heart of the movie is... well, not a drama so much, just an observation of a family dynamic. I mean, there's no story, really, but there is a lot going on. Anne Hathaway stars (and it really is a powerful performance, miles beyond anything I've ever seen her do) as Kym, a recovering junkie who gets out of rehab for the weekend to attend her sister Rachel's wedding. The members of her family (including Bill Irwin as her dad in, I think, a very interesting dramatic performance from someone known for comedy) are stuck in ways of seeing her and, each in their own way, blame her for the death of a youngest child who died when a car Kym was driving while high went into the river. (Her father says it was a mistake, but he says it too many times, I think; he seems to be attempting to convince himself more than he actually believing it.) The family isn't at peace with the death, and Kym is a walking reminder of it and, as she says, she can't erase it no matter what she does (and she may not want to). Added to this internal chaos is Kym and Rachel's mother, divorced from their father and played by Debra Winger in an understated, strong performance. She has detached herself from her former family, but not had the conviction to completely break away from them. She very clearly does not want to be involved with wedding preparations, even though it breaks Rachel's heart. It's as if the memory of her son's death is so painful that she can't even be around her other kids for too long. Rachel Getting Married is at times very sad and very uncomfortable, but I think it takes the right tack in not forcing a phony conflict-resolution structure on its powerful characterizations. There is no real resolution; it ends with some things understood, and others left for later, but with some comfort for its leads. This is one of those rare movies I just wanted to hug, as much for my own sake as anything else. Rosemarie Dewitt, who plays Rachel and now plays Tara's sister on United States of Tara, is very good as well. Granted, I haven't seen The Reader and I love Kate Winslet, but I can't see any actress being better than Anne Hathaway this year. One of the best movies of 2008. **** stars.

Koala Drinking in the Wreckage

Tengrain has a video of a koala being hydrated by a firefighter. It's a bright spot in what has been an absolute tragedy in Southern Australia. The worst wildfires in their history, with over 200 dead, and the fires might have been set on purpose.

Rowlf the Purina Pitchdog and Other True Tales of Muppetry

Check out this neat article on stories behind 20 Muppet characters. (Thanks, Splotchy, for the link!)

Viral Marketing: Youth in Revolt

There have been some great viral marketing clips in the past couple of years, and many of them have had Michael Cera. Here's another one; Michael flipping out on the set of Youth in Revolt. Yeah, it's a take on the whole Christian Bale thing, which is already ten minutes ago, but Michael Cera is hilarious no matter what.

Comfort Foods

Following Jaquandor, who is himself following Roger, I'm commenting on's list of 25 comfort foods.

Apple Pie: Definitely a comfort food. I like it plain and cold, but warmed with a scoop of vanilla ice cream... that's comfort.

Baked Beans: I don't like beans. I find the idea that they would be comfort food to someone extremely bizarre, but people have all kinds of tastes. It's not mine, though.

Banana Pudding: I had it once, way back, and didn't like it. It tastes like the kind of paste you feed to really old people or infants. Like tapioca with Nilla Wafers. What's the point?

Beef Stew: Those of you who remember my beef stew story will understand that I can never be comforted by this demon feed.

Brisket Pot Roast: I've never had it. Never really thought to, to be honest. Is it good? It looks pretty good.

Chicken & Dumplings: I make a great chicken & dumplings, if I may say so. I don't think of it as comfort food, but it tastes damn good.

Chicken Pot Pie: Never wanted it. For a while, my sister was apparently on a quest to try the chicken pot pie at every crappy mid-level family restaurant chain on Earth. It always looks nasty to me.

Chicken Soup: I don't see it as comfort food, but I like chicken soup. My problem is that I put too many crackers into it. I guess what I really want is some kind of chicken stew or chowder or something.

Chili: Not a fan. I never liked it much, but I'm not a bean guy. Still, I've kind of wanted to have it lately.

Chocolate Chip Cookies: Of course. Especially when you take them out of the oven and they're still warm and melty.

Corn on the Cob: Love it, but not as a comfort food. Cornbread, maybe, but not corn on the cob. Although it is nice that it reminds me of my grandma.

Fried Chicken: I'm a breast man when it comes to chicken. I used to love to get Brown's Chicken with sides: mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, biscuits... Damn, I'm hungry. You know what? Yeah, that's a comfort meal. Comfort all the way.

Gelatin: Seriously? I like Jell-O as much as anyone, but a comfort food?

Green Bean Casserole: You know, green beans are my favorite veg, but I've never eaten a green bean casserole. Weird.

Hot Dogs: Oh, my, yes. Yes indeed. A nice Hebrew National, especially. Make mine a Frog Dog: stuffed with French fries and covered with mustard and ketchup.

Ice Cream: Of course. My favorite is the Baskin-Robbins chocolate. I also love banana splits.

Macaroni & Cheese: I love it. I like the Kraft. We haven't found a recipe to make it at home that I'm entirely happy with yet. I used to love the Boston Market mac and cheese, but the Boston Market up here closed.

Mashed Potatoes: Yes. Well, whipped potatoes, I guess would be more accurate.

Meatloaf: I love when Becca makes this meatloaf with ground turkey. She makes small, individual loaves and they're perfectly moist and wonderful. Comfort all the way. Especially with mashed potatoes.

Potato Salad: I can never bring myself to try it. It looks like food vomit.

Pumpkin Pie: Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. It may be may favorite food on the planet. Every autumn I look forward to having some pumpkin pie, with a little bit of whipped cream (not enough to overpower the pie) and some flavored coffee or some hot chocolate. That's one of the best parts of the fall. It's cold out, it's dark out, the days are short, but pumpkin pie and coffee makes it all warm and good. Lovely. Friggin' brilliant.

Shepherd's Pie: Becca likes it, but I'm not much of a fan.

Spaghetti: Absolutely. I like to savor a spaghetti meal, with meatballs and mozzarela cheese, a little bit of garlic bread on the side... oh, yes. Another one of my favorite meals on the planet.

Tomato Soup: I've never had it, actually.

Tuna Casserole: Even the name is unappealing.

I'm also with Jaquandor on the idea of drive-in burgers, roadside stand ice cream, strawberry milkshakes, waffles, pancakes, and French toast as comfort food. And pizza. I'm beginning to see why I've topped 350 pounds...

Hayden Says She's Not Leaving Heroes

Assuming that's true and it's not meant to throw viewers off from upcoming surprises, that makes me really happy. Of course, I'd be happier if I didn't keep hearing that Heroes is "on the brink of cancellation." Must every science fiction show I love get canceled? Thank Uncle Deadly that Doctor Who is actually popular; at least that's not going anywhere. But I remember how lame and depressing it was when, seemingly all at once, Xena, Invader ZIM, Farscape, and Futurama all got the axe. With so much TV on that I like for a change, it'd be nice to see Heroes stick around. Still, science fiction on NBC...

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Have You Seen Super Danger Action Team Yet?

El Escapisto is one of the Super Danger Action Team, a Flash animation project by Reis O'Brien! The animation has been finished: check it out here and let him know what you think! I totally dug it and I don't know why Cartoon Network isn't producing it right now!

The Health Report, Year 3: Week 9

God, I want this.

Dunkin' Donuts finally went and made something I would actually eat. I hate to think what the nutritional info on this must be, but damn it looks good.

So, today is the last day on the first phase of South Beach. It hasn't sucked, actually. The food is fine, I love cooking, and except for times when I find myself craving bread, I don't feel too deprived. I managed to go through the kitchen and throw out a ton of food (a lot of it was old and needed to go). The cupboards and fridge look like we just moved in. We're spending less money on food than we did before. It hasn't been as long and rough as I was afraid it would be.

(And Allen, you were right; for some reason, day 10 was really, really hard. All I wanted was an Italian beef and fries.)

What really annoys me, of course, is that I've lost barely any weight. However, I've lost some size, and I've got a lot of energy back (though the nice weather this week has really helped with that). My body feels somewhat different inside; there are foods I feel like I don't eat anymore.

Still, I'm looking forward to being able to have some wheat bread or some cereal or some fruit.

I went out yesterday and had some blood work done at the hospital. Two new drugs to take, but I'm getting rid of one (my potassium is too high, my good cholesterol is slightly low, and my bad cholesterol is slightly high--all of it fixable). Bottom line is that I'm not doing great, but I'm doing better. I'm getting there.

Questions I Want to Ask the Octuplet Mom

I saw an ad during Heroes last night that the woman who whelped eight children was going to be interviewed on The Today Show this morning. I didn't watch; not being brain-damaged, Today doesn't make very much sense to me. But the promo promised Diane Sawyer would be "asking the questions you want answered." I'm not sure we have the same questions, but here's what I would've asked the octuplet mom before her sideshow kids die in captivity.

* Are you insane?

* No, really, are you insane?

* Do you just have severe emotional problems?

* Don't you think wanting to feel the love and attention you missed from childhood is one of the worst reasons there is for having a kid, much less birthing your own community?

* How much love and attention do you think your 14 children are going to individually get, exactly? That's a big crowd.

* I read that your parents have been assisting you financially with your previous six children. Do you honestly think your parents don't have any love and attention for you? You're basically still their dependent!

* Don't you think having eight more babies and still expecting your parents to help you financially is just unbelievably unrealistic?

* And isn't it kind of a shitty thing to do to your parents? I'm sure someone was hoping to retire some day. In this economic climate, isn't having just one child a major decision?

* Seriously, are you insane?

* Aren't you, I don't know, just incredibly selfish and using babies as props to feel love?

* How many children is it going to take until you feel fulfilled? Obviously, six wasn't enough. I guarantee at least four of them are going to say their mother didn't give them enough love and attention.

* Did you just think there weren't enough messed-up kids with mommy issues in the world and wanted to add some more?

* Is it fair to take out your crippling emotional issues on 14 innocent victims who are now unknowing puppets in your quest for validation?

* What obscure Bolivian university did your ethics-challenged fertility doctor graduate from, and is it accredited?

* Why do you think you deserve a reality show? Because your womb works? What makes you worth paying any attention to? Is there a possibility your need for so many children and your parents' money and a reality show just makes you a sad, horrible attention whore?

* Seriously, what's your damage?

Holy Socks! Turns Out I Love These Games Too!

I've been doing a lot of this since Christmas, actually. I've been enjoying the hell out of these games (although we're completely finished on the two Star Wars games now. My favorite, very definitely, is the Indiana Jones game. I like the booby traps and puzzles and clues; it's the most fun of the four LEGO games. I'm just sorry it's going to be finished one day. But, of course, then, one day, I'll get to play the whole thing again.

I understand that Warner Bros. bought Traveler's Tales games this year. I hope that's not the end of their deal with LucasArts. I'm hoping, surely in vain, for LEGO Star Wars: The Clone Wars. However, since the Batman game was awesome, I'm hoping it's another trip back to the well for LEGO Superman or LEGO Justice League. Or both... Becca wants to see LEGO Harry Potter. I'm holding out for LEGO Star Trek.

I know, in some way, they're all the same game. But they're so damn fun.

Thanks, Traveler's Tales. You actually made me love video games again.