Friday, August 29, 2008

Day 4 of the DNCC

Obama did exactly what needed to be done tonight, giving a full, enthralling, point-by-point explanation of what Change means. He made it brilliantly clear that the Democrats are the party of ideas and the party of the future. It was the most intelligent and strategically wise political speech I have ever seen.

What will the Republicans give us? They'll try to hide and run away from Bush. They'll try to blame everyone but themselves for the past eight years. They'll try to scare us into voting once again for endless bellicosity, and the same old tired, broke-ass bullsh*t. Wait till that ghoul Giuliani gets on stage as the keynote to do his noun/verb/911 schtick.

Sorry guys, we've had enough. We've had enough of government incompetence costing American lives. We've had enough of lies and propaganda driving us into trillion dollar mistakes, We've had enough of a repulsive, idiotic, and mindless ideology infecting our system of justice. We've had enough of endless tax cuts for the rich while the rest of us fall farther and farther behind. We've had enough of 47 million people without health care and health insurance companies denying care to the sick and most vulnerable. We've had enough of a fake-ass cowboy mentality driving us straight into the ground.

It ends now, this year.

Also, David Brooks is a dick. I am so sick of otherwise intelligent people telling me how he's a "reasonable conservative" and "an ally." He's not. When push comes to shove, he's Bill Kristol with tortoise-shell glasses and a weird lisp. He doesn't want "direct democracy diplomacy with nuclear proliferators [i.e., Iran]" -- he just wants to bomb the Mohammedans.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

John Kerry Brings the Pain



As I said, Bill Clinton and Joe Biden gave great speeches last night, but the most impassioned and convincing speech, in my opinion, came from John Kerry. The campaign would do well to adopt the template Kerry so forcefully puts forward in this speech.

Day 3 of the DNCC

Only have time for a quick post. Clinton exceeded my expectations last night. It was actually an excellent speech. Biden was pretty good as well, although he could have delivered his speech a bit better. He looked a bit nervous.

I thought Kerry was the surprise of the night. Why couldn't he have had that humor and spark four years ago? In any event, I think his speech was effective -- it was probably powered by four years of regret and guilt about what happened last time.

I'm a little worried about the Greek temple set at Mile High tonight. We'll see how that goes. Also curious to see how Gore comes across. Overall, I think the GOP is going to have a hard time matching this.

I've got my fingers crossed that McSame picks Mitt Romney for VP tomorrow and thereby dooms his candidacy.

UPDATE: Olympic gymnast Shawn Johnson will be giving the Pledge of Allegiance tonight at the Democratic Convention. This is exactly the kind of thing the Dems need. I knew Johnson was one of the good ones when she showed up with those white peace earrings for her interview with Bob Costas after winning the gold on the balance beam. (Just as I knew Kerri Walsh was in the tank for Pres. Bush and the GOP when she gave a shout out to Bush at the opening ceremonies, hung out with him for tons of photo ops, and then gave him another shout out after winning the gold. Ughh. Ann Coulter in a beach volleyball outfit.)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

More on Day 2 of the DNCC


That's not a maverick, that's a sidekick! - Sen. Bob Casey

Also, Gov. Brian Schweitzer kicked some f*cking ass tonight.

We Are Going to Do It -- Together



Hillary Clinton stood up and put Humpty Dumpty back together tonight. Clinton is right: this is not an election about her, or Obama -- it's about taking back this country, throwing the corrupt, incompetent, and unprincipled out of power.

I take back every mean or cynical thing I have said about Hillary Clinton this past year. She reminded me -- and every Democrat in the country -- of what this is all about, and that we are all in this together.

You want to be reminded of the stakes? Listen to Dennis Kucinich setting the crowd on fire at the convention today. (The networks and cable channels ignored this, obviously.)

The founding fathers knew that these dark days would come (See, e.g., Federalist No. 10 ("Enlightened statesmen will not always be at the helm.")); and they knew that the American people would find their way back to the light.

By the way, this "Funkytown" themed commercial (currently on heavy rotation on MSNBC) is an advertisement for nuclear energy.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Joe Lieberman Never Liked the Whalers



Oh, look, William Kristol thinks it would be just fabulous if John McCain picked Joseph Lieberman to be his Vice President. Shocker. (BTW, what the f*ck does Kristol mean by "Obama's glass ceiling"?)

Kristol and Lieberman, the ubiquitous poster children of the neocons, share a unique talent: despite being wrong about everything they continue to maintain positions as "foreign policy experts."

We can all look forward to seeing good ol' Joe Lieberman speaking at the Republican Convention a week from today, to champion John McCain and his candidacy, which seeks to maintain tax cuts for the rich, ensure a conservative supermajority on the Supreme Court, continue our ruinous economic policies, and, most importantly and dear to Lieberman's heart, continue to bomb Mohammedans into oblivion. Good ol' Joe Lieberman is eager to sink his former party's chances to change the course of the country after the ruinous eight years we've all just lived through. Joe Lieberman is a vengeful, hateful man. The state of Connecticut will never again elect him to any office.

All of that brought to mind another unrepentant windbag -- Kenneth Pollack. In this past Sunday's NYT Book Review, Economist writer Max Rodenbeck absolutely dismantled Pollack's latest work of deep thinking scholarship (his last was his book offering intellectual cover to liberals who felt sort of bad about wanting to like the invasion of Iraq [see, e.g., David Remnick])
Pollack commits errors that, despite his years in the corridors of power and some 70 pages of footnotes, betray a lack of genuine intimacy with his subject. It is not true, as he asserts, that education in the Persian Gulf emirates is largely private. Nor is it true, any longer, that virtually the only foreign investment in Arab countries goes toward pumping more oil: real estate, tourism, banking, telecoms and even heavy industry now lure investors, too.

It is an outdated generalization to state that “Arab bureaucracies . . . create interminable delays with customs regulations, inspections and other red tape.” Try telling that to Dubai Ports World, a company that runs 45 container terminals in 29 countries, or to the operators of the giant, state-of-the-art transshipment hubs in Egypt and Morocco that are set to dominate Mediterranean trade. It is even more misleading to assert that “the Arab regimes have implicitly or explicitly backed a range of terrorist groups.” Pray, which Arab governments does he mean, and which groups is he talking about?

Pollack also shows a shaky grasp of history. We know that the Ottoman Empire declined and fell, but to have endured for five centuries, and for half those as the biggest state in Europe, the Mediterranean and the Middle East, does not make the Ottomans “unsuccessful.” Elsewhere he tells us sagely that “over time, the stagnation of the Arab economies has created considerable poverty,” as if there were no poor Arabs before, and as if one of the most startling modern examples of mass impoverishment was not the Clinton-era sanctions on Iraq, which destroyed its middle class and set the stage for postwar chaos.

America gets off rather lightly in gen­eral, in Pollack’s account, compared with the sad Arabs whom we must help to be like us. We are told, for instance, that the United States only grudgingly became involved in the grisly Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s when it nobly undertook to reflag oil tankers in order to protect the flow of oil. No mention here of Donald Rumsfeld’s back-slapping with Saddam Hussein or the supply of satellite intelligence to him or the exchange of American weapons to Iran for hostages — all of which helped prolong the slaughter.

Pollack seems oddly unaware of history’s motivating forces. To assert that “what triggers revolutions, civil wars and other internal unrest is psychological factors, particularly feelings of extreme despair,” is plain silly. The Boston Tea Party could not have been prevented by Prozac. Similarly, he ascribes feelings to broad categories of Middle Easterners, devoid of any context or explanation. They are “angry populations” who suffer “inchoate frustration” and “a pathological hatred of the status quo.” We repeatedly hear of “Arab rage at Israel” and “Arab venom for Israel.” Nowhere is there a hint that such attitudes might bear some relation to the plight of the Palestinians, the agony of military defeat or the humiliation of life under Israeli occupation.
NYT.

It was quite bracing to read Rodenbeck's piece in the Times. It felt like someone had slipped up at the Book Review and let his piece through without remembering to quash or neuter it. I guess I'm just accustomed and resigned to pablum like Walter Russell Mead's recent piece in Foreign Affairs.

So Lieberman on Monday at the GOP convention and Giuliani as the keynote. One word: FLORIDA!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Death in the Afternoon

These pictures were taken by my friend last week. He was at home in Silverlake when this gigantic dragonfly landed on him.



The dragonfly apparently clung to him and didn't let go. My friend went inside, with the dragonfly still attached.



The dragonfly flew around my friend's living room, listlessly, weakly. It didn't appear to want to go anywhere.



After a while, the dragonfly stopped flying, and instead sought to rest in my friend's palm.



Within a few hours, the dragonfly was barely moving its wings.



All things end. Summer was almost over, and the dragonfly's life was also coming to an end.



The dragonfly stopped moving in the late afternoon. My friend put it down and watched it for a few hours. It was dead.



My account is mostly fictionalized. Many thanks to my friend for the amazing photos.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

In Need of a Guide for the Perplexed

I checked out Maimonides' Guide for the Perplexed from the library last December, but I had to return it before I had read much of it. Notably, Maimonides wrote the Guide in Arabic, in Moorish Iberia.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

I sip the Dom P, watchin Gandhi til I'm charged . . .



Then writin in my book of rhymes, all the words pass the margin . . . .

I fucking love this remix. I remember having this on a tape at night, in my college roommate's car, as we drove through a toll booth, over a bridge, and into New York City in the summer of 1995. We were 20, and the air was electric with possibility.

The internet will never let us forget anything.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Milk and Honey


bear stealing fruit

Grapes and figs grow wild in the backyard here in Eagle Rock. They were here before we got here. I picked a bunch of grapes and a bowl or two of figs the other weekend.

It was the strangest feeling, eating those grapes and figs in our seventies-style kitchen: I felt like I was eating fruit I had pilfered, in the kitchen of a house I had broken into.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

It's Trash Day Again



I never feel more American than when I am pulling out the garbage.

Does NBC need to show every single swimming event -- every semifinal, every heat -- that is run at the Olympics? How many swimming events are there? It seems like there are hundreds. Where is the huge swimming audience in America? How many faceless goggled people breaking World Records every race can we watch? Where is the judo? Where is the archery? Where is the table tennis? Why is beach volleyball an Olympic sport? How many more times do I have to see Kerri Walsh and Misty May? Kerri Walsh is totally a Republican. I can't prove it, but I know. They have cheerleaders between sets for the beach volleyball, along with a DJ and goofy announcers. Why are they cancelling baseball as an Olympic sport? Why is BMX an Olympic sport while cricket isn't?

Also, I realize NBC is an American channel and everything, but couldn't they afford to ease up just a little on the maniacal focus on American athletes only and the ridiculous jingoism? I mean, it's fine to root for America and all, but couldn't we have a hint of objectivity? NBC doesn't appear to cover events if an American does not have a chance at a medal. This makes me feel claustrophobic after a while. Isn't the point to see the best in the world in the various events? Not just to wallow in our glory in the events we are good at?

The Democratic Convention is in eleven days, which is a little hard to believe. I can't believe so much of the convention is going to be dominated by the Clintons and all of their demands, roll calls, resolutions, etc. Watch for Geraldine Ferraro to self immolate in the middle of the Virginia delegation to protest the continuing tyranny of black male power in America.

Joe Lieberman does not represent the views of the Great State of Connecticut. He is praying that McCain wins (and will apparently do his best to help him do so with a speaking role at the GOP convention) because 2012 will be ugly for Joe in CT.

Russia has us all by the balls.

I made egg drop soup last night. It really was quite thrilling.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Archive Fever: An Old Review of The Incredibles (2005)

I'll be bringing back some old View from the Tank reviews from my old LiveJournal site over the next few months. Today's defrosted and reheated review: The Incredibles.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

The View from the Tank : Wall*E (2008)

In the past few months, after seeing a movie, I have usually found myself eager to rush back home, and punch out a prolix and boring movie review. Somehow, I've found myself putting off writing a review of Wall*E, which I saw two weeks ago. I'm not sure why that is, but I think it may have to do with my conflicted feelings about the movie.

It's true that the beginning of the movie -- the first thirty or forty minutes or so -- are spectacular, and a radical departure for Pixar, or any other computer animated movie. The scenes featuring Wall*E going about his life alone (with the company of his pet cockroach) are, beyond their superficially cute aspects, deeply disturbing and relentlessly bleak -- in addition to being fantastically rendered. If the movie ended before the "female" robot Eve arrived -- perhaps with Wall*E watching "Hello Dolly" by himself in his sandstorm-proof trailer -- it would remain a classic and terrifying picture of our future.

But that's not what happens, and the film continues, with Wall*E falling in love with Eve, who looks like a next generation Ipod (with the cutesy simple display icons to match), traveling into space, saving humanity and the planet, etc. Everything goes pretty much downhill after Wall*E leaves earth, with the possible exception of the deranged massage robot, and the compulsive cleaning robot we meet in space.

Though the filmmakers clearly applied a great deal of thought to the initial portion of the film, even there, I found the presentation of the wasteland earth that Wall*E inhabited a bit, er, cartoonish. The earth had been rendered uninhabitable through overconsumption, driven by a massive world-controlling superstore called Buy 'N Large. Okay, so we should buy less stuff. Got it. What is the point? Buy fewer Wall*E tie-ins? Don't supersize your lunch?

This is for sure misplaced griping, but I felt that if the filmmakers were going to get into the global crisis of overconsumption, they needed to go a little darker still. Overconsumption is portrayed mainly as a waste or trash disposal problem -- indeed, Wall*E is in fact a waste disposal/arrangement unit. But the film, in emphasizing modern/later capitalism's ability to produce excessive abundance, presents a deeply incorrect -- and therefore, unconvincing -- view of the world, as we see by just looking around today.

Metal scavenging is on the rise in America, as the price of scrap metal has skyrocketed. Prices for staple foods have shot up in the past year, in part due to demand for biofuels, and in part due to increased demand in rapidly developing economies. Investors have begun speculating on water futures, as they see a coming future where scarce fresh water is the new oil. We are in fact running out of everything, just as huge segments of the world are beginning to want more of everything. The world is polluted and full of crap, sure -- but isn't the more likely and believable future not one populated by fat people perpetually at their leisure in an automated wonderland, but rather a world of water wars, Mad Max oil battles, the skeletal bodies of mass famine, etc.?

Apologies -- what was intended to be a movie review has turned into a blog post. And it is to the movie's credit that it provokes these types of responses. It is, after all, a cartoon. And we are reminded of that once Wall*E leaves earth, and the film begins to degenerate into a more, um, earth-bound computer animation. Pixar has apparently given up trying to render humans accurately; the simplified humans in the film were unfortunate distractions for me. And the story is pretty formulaic.

Still, a largely beautiful movie, with a truly wonderful opening thirty or forty minutes. Four tentacles (out of of five).

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

The Rhubarb in History



A prime commodity shipped on the Silk Road was rhubarb. The rhizome was believed to have various medicinal and healing properties, not the least being its efficacy as a laxative.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Personal Property



Last week, a man in Germany received a double arm transplant:
The patient was a 54-year-old farmer who lost his limbs in an accident six years ago.

The donor is believed to be a teenager who had died shortly before the surgery. Neither man's name has been released by the Munich clinic.

The 15-hour operation took place last week, and the patient is recovering well, though it could be two years before he can move his new hands.

Arm transplants have been carried out before - the first occurred in Austria in 2003 when a man received transplanted forearms and hands.

[....]

Surgeon Edgar Biemer said the greatest challenge was establishing blood flow between the farmer's body and muscles in the new arms because the muscles have a limited lifespan.

And he said: "We discussed with the patient that he would have to deal with the fact that his hands were from somebody else.

[....]

The patient cannot move his new arms but doctors hope his network of nerves will expand at a pace of around one millimetre (0.04 inches) per day.

Even if that happens, it could still be two years before the patient can manipulate his new hands.
BBC.

I was struck by the surgeon's line about the patient having to deal with the fact that he was using someone else's hands. I guess that recognition is not as present and unavoidable when you've received a heart or kidney transplant. With an arm or hand transplant, you've got the borrowed body parts staring back at you, in your line of vision, all the time.

The other thing I was thinking while I was reading this story was what, if anything, the transplant recipient had to pay for the arms themselves -- as a separate item from the surgery. Were they free? Did he receive an itemized bill from the hospital with an entry for "2 Arms"?

Surely not, but I wondered. What would two usable, not too decayed, relatively fresh arms go for on the open market?

The double-arm transplant also reminded me of those mysterious severed feet that kept washing ashore in Canada a few months ago; I meant to post about this story a while back. In any event, at least five severed feet have washed ashore; the police up there believe they may have identified the owner of at least one of them:
A Washington state coroner said Friday that he wants to work with the B.C. Coroners Service to see if there's a connection between footless skeletal remains discovered in the San Juan Islands and the mysterious severed feet that have washed ashore in southwest B.C.

San Juan County coroner Randall Gaylord said a body was discovered by a hiker on Orcas Island in the San Juan archipelago in March 2007. The body did not have a right arm, right hand, left hand or any feet.

The body had some gold inlays on the molars. It belonged to a male about five feet, nine inches tall and could be Caucasian, Asian or native American, and possibly over 30 years old.

Gaylord said he called the B.C. Coroners Service on Thursday to initiate the sharing of information.

Meanwhile, CTV News reported Friday that RCMP had identified one of the five severed feet as belonging to a depressed man who was missing. RCMP Corp. Pierre LeMaitre said police had ruled out foul play.
Nat'l Post.

Which brings back to mind how a friend of mine in college once told me about a dream she had about finding a severed foot in a window. I took her dream and wrote a short story about it for the college lit mag. (At one point in the story, a character admires the foot and wonders how much it would fetch on the market.) Afterwards, I wondered if I had plagiarized my friend's dream, or if she had released it into the creative commons. Or did it originate there in the first place? I guess I should've at least dropped a footnote somewhere.