21 July 2009

Meet the GOP grassroots

It's not uncommon for congressmen and congresswomen to have town hall meetings in their districts to discuss important issues with their constituents. The people who show up to these meetings tend to be disproportionately favorable to the official, so these events are less balanced civic summits and more ideological rallies making fun of "the other guys." And I level this as a bipartisan criticism.

Anywho, I bring this up because of footage from a town hall meeting hosted by Republican Congressman Mike Castle of Delaware. Rep. Castle is considered a fairly moderate dude, which pisses off the GOP base to no end.

And why not?!?! Members of Congress are focusing on issues like healthcare, energy, and the economy, and all the while an African -- named Barack Hussein Obama no less -- has been allowed to assume the Presidency!!!
Trust me, I know the Dems have their fair share of crazy, but seriously, step one in GOP recovery should probably start with adding a critical mass of sensibility to the party's base.

Remember some of the rants from the McCain-Palin rallies.... Continue reading this post >>

17 July 2009

Jesse Ventura calls Sarah Palin a "quitter"

You know, I disagree with him on a few (not all) issues, but I always love a good Jesse commentary. Here he is on CNN's Larry King Live, talking about the Sotomayor confirmation, Al Franken, Sarah Palin's resignation, among other things:

I really want to see more of Jesse on 24-hour cable news, particularly Fox News. Continue reading this post >>

16 July 2009

Government-funded genitals covered in fruit loops

The St. Paul City Council held a hearing yesterday on if/how much the city should fund public art projects, which prompted MPR's question of the day: "When, if ever, is public art a good use of taxpayers' money?"

The two extremes of this debate are...
ALWAYS: Public art increases quality-of-life and preserves the soul of our community, and it figures those uncultured rednecks wouldn't understand or appreciate my performance art piece, titled: "The Bowels of Democracy and Fucking Humanity with the Blood-stained Fruit Loops of Capitalism." Whenever money gets tight, they always come after the artists. I'm a martyr!!!

NEVER: Government should only fund defense and public safety, not a performance artist pouring red paint and fruit loops on his genitals while pooping on the American flag. And while we're at it, let's get rid of snow removal -- I can shovel my own damn street, and so can those lazy welfare-loving minorities!
That being said (with a fair amount of tongue-in-cheek), I think there's some interesting room for discussion between these radical poles.

-Since government is supposed to be an objective body (no religion, blind justice, everyone is equal, etc.) and art is an inherently subjective in its expression and interpretation, are the two incompatible at even a basic level?

-When people see more beauty in their surroundings, won't they feel more pride and investment in their community, and isn't that a fundamental aspect/value/goal of America?

-Even if we can agree on the importance of public art, shouldn't we consider the current recession and budget limitations of government (particularly state and local) and prioritize public services over funding for the arts? Is it fair to say that art isn't a necessity?

DISCUSS! Continue reading this post >>

10 July 2009

The future of the mustachio

I could be wrong, but I think the mustache is soon to make the transition from joke to fashionably hip. (Or maybe mustaches are already in again, but I'm from an Iowa farm and, therefore, about 3 years behind the times.) Continue reading this post >>

03 July 2009

Feminism, empowerment, and burkas

The Daily Show tackles the current debate in France over banning the burka:
The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Burka Ban
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I'm not well-versed in the history of the feminist movement, but I've heard this debate play out a lot: does an empowered woman need to act a certain way, or is empowerment simply a woman's ability to choose her lifestyle, whatever it may be (corporate executive, stay-at-home mom, porn star, etc.)?

Earlier this year, Emily produced a radio piece for KFAI about feminism in American Muslim culture (read or listen to it!). She interviewed two professional women, one a community activist and the other an instructor in an arts outreach program in Minneapolis schools. While neither are forced to cover their heads with a hijab, they both choose to do so as a form of empowerment. The argument against this form of empowerment is that the oppression is systematic: a woman feels pressured into a certain lifestyle choice by ingrained societal degradation.

So what does empowerment really look like? Continue reading this post >>

01 July 2009

Gender bender

Salon blogger Katharine Mieszkowski reports on a Swedish couple who won't tell anyone if their baby is a boy or a girl. Here's a snippet:
A Swedish couple believe so strongly that gender is a social construction that they do not reveal whether their 2.5-year-old is a boy or a girl.

Only those who have changed the toddler's diapers know if "Pop," which is not the child's real name, is male or female. "We want Pop to grow up more freely and avoid being forced into a specific gender mold from the outset," the tot's 24-year-old mother told the newspaper Svenska Dagbladet. "It's cruel to bring a child into the world with a blue or pink stamp on their forehead."

Pop's wardrobe includes both pants and dresses, and the child usually gets to decide what to wear. "Although Pop knows that there are physical differences between a boy and a girl, Pop's parents never use personal pronouns when referring to the child -- they just say Pop," according to the English-language Swedish site the Local.
An interesting concept, and I'll be curious to see what Pop is like in 10 or so years. (And I'm not being facetious -- I think there's a good chance Pop will be incredibly well-adjusted.)

Growing up on the Iowa farm, gender roles were pretty well-defined, although my parents definitely swapped certain aspects of the typical father-mother divide. My dad doesn't really follow sports or get into competitive stuff much, while my mom follows most professional sports, pushed me to be more athletic, and was the assistant coach of one of my little league teams.

To this day, I generally know what's going on in the sports world, but I'm not the fanatic or religious follower most guys seem to be. I have nothing against sports or the die-hard fans. Not being a typical sports dude is sometimes hard in social situations, where, for guys, sports act like a natural conversation starter. A social commons for men, if you will.

In this way, I feel like I've had to define my own sense of masculinity. I can drink a pink strawberry smoothie (because goddamnit, it just tastes fucking good) and make a fart joke at the same time (because goddamnit, flatulence is just fucking funny).

Right now, society expects gender behavior based on one's nether parts. If you've got a vagina, you should shave excess hair, like the color pink, and think farts are gross. If you've got a penis, you should like cars, never cry, and know Albert Pujols's batting average at all times. It's not wrong to be a boy or a girl. What's wrong is being locked in a mode of behavior because that's what society expects. Continue reading this post >>

Squirrels and breasts and CNN

Jeanne Moos has been a reporter with CNN for 27 years. In her time there, she has covered the United Nations, student protests in Beijing, and has interviewed Mikhail Gorbachev. For her reporting work, she's won some awards.

Yesterday, she filed a story headlined "Squirrel wedged in cleavage," and trust me, it's worth the watch:

My favorite part about the video is that it goes well beyond the, um, actual story about the squirrel in the woman's cleavage, tying in a cartoon dance and a perverted Iowa meteorologist.

Oh, journalism.... Continue reading this post >>

17 June 2009

Kitty family

I have looked into the future for Emily, Henry, and myself.

And it ain't pretty:
Continue reading this post >>

15 June 2009

A new wiping sensation

And from the Poopy Press this morning, the Comfort Wipe is the cleansing sensation that's wiping the nation!

Really, I don't see how this product improves anyone's bathroom experience. Apparently, though, one of the disadvantages of being a "big guy" is not being able to wipe properly. Screw losing weight and getting healthier -- here's a wand that let's you keep eating and pooping to your heart's content! Speaking of heart's content, the 50-something woman seems just a wee bit too excited for this wiping innovation.



In other poop news, I received this email this morning. Twitter really is the great networking tool of the 21st Century!

Continue reading this post >>

09 June 2009

My name is Tanner, and I'm a chipaholic

I love chips. I've been known, particularly in my middle school days, to eat a whole bag of potato chips in one sitting. And to this day, I have to limit my proximity to those salty delicious little crisps. And don't even mention moderation. To a chipaholic like me, there's no such thing as just one chip.

And so it is that I am downright giddy about a new marketing campaign from Kettle Foods, called Create-A-Chip. For $15, you get a box of plain chips and various flavorings and presto---wham-o---sham-bam, you get to create your own chip flavors. Submit your recipes to Kettle, and one of them might get mass-produced for legions of obese Americans!

I'm seriously tempted to order the package. I'm thinking a burrito-flavored chip is long overdue. Fairy tales can come true, it can happen to you.... Continue reading this post >>

28 April 2009

Evil fetus detecting machine

Surfing the intertubes, I came across two videos with opposing videos on abortion. Neither is particularly thoughtful or productive, but both are emotionally provocative and indicative of why the discussion on abortion in America doesn't really go anywhere except in circles.

From the folks at CatholicVote.org, a group dedicated to winning over undecideds to the pro-life camp:


And then a response from YouTube user artvandelay4heyhey:


I actually think Osama bin Laden had a step-father, but that's beside the point, which is...we need to invent an evil fetus detecting machine! Continue reading this post >>

27 April 2009

Confession

I love Catholic humor. From the Tribeca Film Festival:
Continue reading this post >>

14 April 2009

Create your own NPR name

Lianablog shows us how to do it:
You take your middle initial and insert it somewhere into your first name. Then you add on the smallest foreign town you’ve ever visited.
That makes me Tannjer Rhossili.

(h/t: Brauer) Continue reading this post >>

11 April 2009

Polar bears attack

To be fair, the woman had a bottle of coca-cola in her back pocket:
Continue reading this post >>

Eyebrow genetics

I'm in Dunn Bros, and I just saw this guy with intensely thick eyebrows. That dude's thick eyebrows make him look weird, I thought.

Then this guy's little daughter, probably 4 or 5 years old, comes romping around. She's a cute little kid, but then I notice...she has her father's eyebrows. Thick and bushy -- each brow reaching out, longing to unite with the other.

Most unfortunate. Continue reading this post >>

10 April 2009

Tanner Curl School of Dance

I taught this kid everything he knows about dance....
Continue reading this post >>

Of pets

I don't remember how it came up, but the other night, Emily asked, "If someone offered you a $1 million to get rid of Henry, would you take it?"

I still don't know my answer.

There are a number of ways a million bucks would come in handy...paying off student loans or funding graduate studies come to mind. But I think of Henry like...a child. He's a little person with a personality and opinions (typically centered around his undying love for mouse tail-like objects) and feelings.

When I actually think about how I've come to look at Henry as a person, it makes me uncomfortable. It's not how I was raised. On the farm, pets were never allowed inside the house, and at some point, my parents confessed to drowning baby kittens and puppies before my siblings and I found out about them. On the Curl farm, animals didn't equal humans.

Henry is my first actual pet, and even though I know that he's incapable of such complex human emotions, I feel like he loves Emily and me. I feel like if he was given the choice between us and anyone else in the world, he'd pick us right away.

I suppose this anthropomorphizing isn't particularly dangerous, unless it turns into this:

And The Onion has something to say as well. Continue reading this post >>

09 April 2009

Billy Bob Thornton is F-ing nuts

Not that we needed a lot more proof, but it turns out that Billy Bob Thornton is fucking nuts. And a dick:

Remember when Billy Bob was with Angelina Jolie, and they were so into each other that they carried around vials of each other's blood? Yeah. Fucking nuts.

If you want a reminder of their freaky love and an example of Billy Bob's singing abilities, check this out. (They disabled embedding capabilities on this video...I wonder why.) Continue reading this post >>

Everyone Poops: the Movie

If you're looking forward to Spike Jonze's Where the Wild Things Are, then you'll really want to see this:

Inside all of us is...poop. Continue reading this post >>

28 March 2009

Farts are bipartisan

In these times of polarized politics, maybe Barack Obama needs to bring out the secret weapon that binds us all together: flatulence.

Continue reading this post >>

27 March 2009

Where The Wild Things Are

I love books about the creative, uninhibited nature of kids, so I'm pretty damn excited about this:


And in other news, I'm going to get my ass back in gear and blogging again. I already have a post in the works, which may or may not involve poop. Continue reading this post >>

21 March 2009

I'm back...with Andy Rooney

Well, I guess I haven't been feeling very bloggy the last couple weeks, but as it turns out, I've just spent the last hour watching Andy Rooney segments on YouTube, and as luck would have it, he has served as a laxative to my blogging constipation.

I've never been very good at impersonations, but one I think I do pretty well is Andy Rooney. That probably owes more to Rooney's craziness than my talent. Some people like to call Andy Rooney a curmudgeon, but I think crazy and confused are better suited to ole Andy's demeanor. On the face of his little segment at the end of 60 Minutes, Rooney is to serve as an old guy dispensing common-sense advice to an increasingly directionless society:


In reality, Andy serves the public by showing us what it's like to become 90-years-old...and insane. Like Brooks from The Shawshank Redemption, Rooney thinks the world has gotten itself in one big damn hurry. Even when it comes to kitchen utensils:
Continue reading this post >>

07 March 2009

Sadness in America

I pretty much sucked at posting this week, but I did read D.T. Max's New Yorker article on David Foster Wallace, which led me to read a 1996 Salon interview with Wallace.

I recommend both.

This excerpt from the Salon interview now resides in my journal (and keeps banging around my little brain):
I wanted to do something sad. I'd done some funny stuff and some heavy, intellectual stuff, but I'd never done anything sad. And I wanted it not to have a single main character. The other banality would be: I wanted to do something real American, about what it's like to live in America around the millennium.

There's something particularly sad about it, something that doesn't have very much to do with physical circumstances, or the economy, or any of the stuff that gets talked about in the news. It's more like a stomach-level sadness. I see it in myself and my friends in different ways. It manifests itself as a kind of lostness. Whether it's unique to our generation I really don't know.
I feel like I connect with Wallace a lot, which is a little scary considering, you know, that whole depression/suicide thing. I've only read essays and short stories by Wallace, but now Infinite Jest is high up on my books-to-read list.

Anywho, I'm going to be away from the intertubes until Wednesday. Take it easy, friends. Continue reading this post >>

02 March 2009

A self-conscious gait

I was in Target recently, and I saw a woman who walked with an extreme bounce in her step.

And, at first, I thought, Man, that woman sure does have a funny gait.

Then: I wonder if she knows how funny she looks. I bet not.

Leading to: Oh god, what if I have a weird walk and people think the same thing about me?

And then I became extremely self-conscious of each step and had trouble walking. Continue reading this post >>

Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss

Today would've been Dr. Seuss' 105th birthday, and Google is celebrating:
Continue reading this post >>

25 February 2009

Just a black man in the wrong neighborhood

I was walking on the sidewalk toward my apartment from my car this evening when an old white van pulled up.

"Excuse me, sir," a gruff voice said.

I turned and saw a middle-aged black man pulling out a binder. Oh, shit, I thought. I had just been to the store and was carrying several bags of groceries, as well as my laptop bag. I wasn't in the mood to listen to his rehearsed spiel and politely turn down -- multiple times -- what I assumed to be some scheme.

"Do you know where Bobby and Steve's Auto World is?" he asked.

"Uh, yeah," I muttered, thankful that he was only asking for directions. The man hopped out of the van and walked toward me.

"Ya see, I got this truck, and I just got hit. My thumb's all busted. Probably broke. See?" He showed me his oddly-bent thumb and pointed to a crudely drawn picture of rectangles in his binder. "And I called Bobby and Steve's and they on their way here and I got my little girl with me. This man's watching my little girl. Ya see, just up there." He pointed to the north, but I didn't see anything. "Ya see, Bobby and Steve's is coming to drain my one tank and tow my truck. It's my job, and I'm short $8.75 for the tow. That man gave me his van to use to get the money. I'm a good man, ex-Marine. See I got my card."

The man started to fish something out of his pocket. Please don't pull out a gun or knife, I thought.

"I know this don't look good," he said while thumbing through the cards and slips of paper in his stuffed wallet. "I'm a just a black man in the wrong neighborhood. But I swear I was a drill sergeant."

"Uh," I stammered, pulling out my wallet. "I only have four dollars on me."

"Any bit will help. You write down your name and number and address, and I'll make sure you get your money back."

"Don't worry about it," I said, not out of charity, but out of the assumption he was still be pushing some scheme and wanted my information. I pulled out the four dollar bills, clutching my wallet, afraid he was going to grab it and run. He took the cash and went back to his van.

"Bless you, sir," he yelled out as he drove away.

And I continued to my apartment, a weird feeling settling in my stomach. Seemingly, I helped the guy out the best I could, and it wasn't a big deal. And that's that, right? But the whole time I was so suspicious. Every step of the way I thought the worst of him.

I started to think about a substituting job I had two months ago, when I watched a 60-year-old white teacher with her class of first graders, all of them black. When I walked into the classroom, she told me to put my wallet and phone in my bag, which she locked in a locker with her belongings.

"That one tends to walk away with things, don't you?" She pointed to a 7-year-old boy who was coloring a chart of numbers, and when he saw that she was pointing at him, he smiled, unaware of the indictment.

I don't think this teacher thought of herself as being racist, but she definitely thought that her students didn't know how to act properly.

At one point, before she left to go to a meeting (which was why I was there to substitute), she attempted to read to them from a picture book about families. It was one of those cheap schmaltzy books: This is the father. He works in an office. This is the mom. She likes to make sandwiches! This is Jake. He loves his mom and dad. Do you love your mom and dad? And the kids fidgeted through the whole thing, whispering to each other and periodically interjecting questions and comments out loud.

"I live with my auntie," a girl blurted with excitement, as though she had been holding it in and couldn't anymore.

"You!" The teacher pointed straight at the girl. "You are not to talk!" The girl lost her smile and slouched down.

While putting my groceries away, I kept hearing, "I'm just a black man in the wrong neighborhood."

And I realized the weird feeling settling in my stomach was the knowledge that at least part of me, a dark part somewhere deep inside of me, agreed with him and had since the moment he had pulled up in the van. Continue reading this post >>

Crack AP editors

Hilarity from the Associated Press (via Brauer/MinnPost):
Continue reading this post >>

Echoes of the past

I came across this Sergei Larenkov photography project via Andrew Sullivan. Larenkov took black-and-white photos of St. Petersburg (then called Leningrad) during the 1941-1944 siege by the Nazis and morphed them with color pictures of St. Petersburg today.

You can see all the photographs at this website, but here are a couple of the more powerful images:
When I was a little kid and spent hours wandering aimlessly across Iowa farm fields, I frequently imagined what might have been experienced on the very land I was standing on. I imagined dinosaurs or Native American camps or wagon trains. I was pretty young, so I didn't have much of an understanding of anything, and my little daydreams were fairly idealized. But there was something poignant about feeling so connected to the past. Continue reading this post >>

24 February 2009

The struggle to find a self

I re-read part of David Foster Wallace's 2006 Kenyon Commencement Address last night, which prompted me to look through more of Wallace's stuff on the intertubes.

In an essay he wrote about Kafka, I came across the following excerpt, and now I can't get it out of my head:
[T]he horrific struggle to establish a human self results in a self whose humanity is inseparable from that horrific struggle. That our endless and impossible journey toward home is in fact our home.
Continue reading this post >>

A heartfelt apology

A couple weeks back I was substitute teaching and had a horrible experience with a class. They wouldn't shut up (not too unusual), and they wouldn't stop throwing wads of paper at each other (much more unusual). It was pretty useless to fill out any behavior referral slips -- I would've been doing them for almost everyone in the class.

Plainly spoken, they were little shits.

Anywho, I know the class's regular teacher well, and she felt horrible about the whole ordeal and made the class write apologies to me.

Here is my favorite:
I don't know what to say. I don't want to write this, but the teacher said I need to or I'll have to read. So I'm sorry.
I'm serious when I say this one is my favorite. At least the student was being honest.... Continue reading this post >>

23 February 2009

When toilet paper is the only paper you have

Listening Lounge continues its exploration of Black History Month this week, with tonight's episode featuring 5 shorter pieces. You can find the details of each piece here, but this one seems the most intriguing to me:
Toilet Paper Scrap Chronicles Civil Rights Ordeal: Within the archives of the Wisconsin Historical Society in Madison rests a carefully-preserved six-foot swatch of toilet paper. Miriam Feingold used it as stationary while incarcerated in a Port Allen, Louisiana Jail in September of 1963. She tells the story of a brutal civil rights struggle during a voter registration drive during which hundreds of people were arrested.
Check the show out at 7 p.m. tonight on 90.3/106.7 FM in the Twin Cities or at KFAI.org. Continue reading this post >>

Winslet's Holocaust Oscar

Emily brought this up during the Oscars last night. From the third episode of Extras in 2005:
Continue reading this post >>

22 February 2009

Oscars, taquitos, and champagne

So...that Oscar prediction post never happened. Instead, I cleaned up the apartment for our Oscar party, designed excessively elaborate ballots, and read a really good AV Club primer on Mickey Rourke's career. (I highly recommend it if you have 20 minutes to spare.)

Despite some fearful moments with our moody digital converter box, we watched the show, ate taquitos, drank champagne, and had a good time. And as it turns out, I suck at making Oscar predictions, selecting the correct winner in only 7 out of 24 categories.

But I do have some random thoughts about last night's Oscars:

- I thought Hugh Jackman did a decent job. He's talented and energetic, and I guess that's about as much as I expect from the host. Jon Stewart was obviously funnier and more self-deprecating toward Hollywood, which I enjoyed. But I can see where others didn't, so whatever, Jackman was fine. I thought his opening number was the best of the evening. Conversely, I felt the movie-musicals-are-back song and dance routine was pretty pathetic. Are High School Musical and MAMMA MIA! really the best examples they could find of the genre's vibrancy?

- I wasn't impressed in general by the big changes that were promised in the lead-up to ceremony. It seemed like the same old montages to me. And the most notable change was the introduction of the acting nominations by past winners. I thought it came off as forced sentimentality. The script was written to sound impromptu, but the speakers were clearly reading off a teleprompter. The whole routine lacked authenticity and dragged down the cadence of the show. And as Emily noted, why not show clips of the nominated performances?

- Another of the promised changes was a narrative to drive the broadcast -- I guess that came in the form of going through a movie's production stages to make the technical awards more interesting. I thought it only worked for the screenplay awards, which was due to the comedic abilities of Tina Fey and Steve Martin.

- But here's something positive: the tightness of the audience to the stage. It made everything more intimate, and I think it would have really worked if Jon Stewart (or someone similarly adept at impromptu comedy) was the host.

- I would love to see the Academy Awards hosted by Sasha Baron Cohen.

- I was disappointed Viola Davis from Doubt didn't win, but I liked Penelope Cruz in Vicky Christina Barcelona, and Cruz had one of the better acceptance speeches of the night.

- While I'm on the subject, I'm pretty disappointed that Doubt wasn't more prevalent overall. I felt the same way two years ago about The Queen and three years ago about Good Night, and Good Luck. Eh. I know Doubt wasn't everyone's cup of tea, but the material and acting were so strong and layered. I love movies that take a fundamental theme and layer the hell out of that theme in a narrative driven by strong characters. I feel the same way about Frost/Nixon. I guess my taste in movies doesn't jive perfectly with the Academy, and that's cool. I know that a lot more marketing and show biz goes on behind the scenes.

- Yay for Kate Winslet! (I guess the no more boobies thing has officially started...sad face.) Kate was gracious and poised and beautiful and smart, which is why she's a great actress. (And why I love her.)

- And the anticipated nice moment with Heath Ledger happened. And it was nice and sweet.

- I thought Sean Penn did a fine job in Milk, but I still think Mickey Rourke deserved that award. And what annoys me most is that Penn's win is, in my opinion, overtly political. I support gay rights and was pissed about Prop 8 in California, but taking a stand at the Oscars isn't really going to make a difference. Beyond any of that, though, Rourke's performance in The Wrestler was simply amazing. No, it was more than that. Fucking amazing. A warrior in the twilight of his life. Sad. Powerful. It was simply a better acting role than Harvey Milk.

- Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens shouldn't stay up past their bedtime.

- A friend of mine recently said that Slumdog Millionaire is what "going to the cinema is all about." That statement about sums it up for me. Is some of the love around the movie originating from a desire for catharsis and hope? Yes. But that's art and its role in our world.

- Another of the memes leading up to the ceremony: "How will it be glamorous in a time of economic downturn and uncertainty?" Was the expectation that everyone would show up in tattered clothing? No. Was there some kind of expectation for appropriate gloominess at the Super Bowl? No. These people are Hollywood stars and live more lavishly than most of us. We know that, and they can't fool us into thinking otherwise. If they tried, it'd be insulting.

- The big reward at the end? Watching 10-second clips of upcoming movies that I can see online or in the theatre! Way to go Oscar producers! Continue reading this post >>

20 February 2009

AutoReply: Out of Office

I'm off to Iowa for a slinga-da-ink stop at Coe for a friend's senior acting recital! Yay! Continue reading this post >>

19 February 2009

No more naked Winslet, no more will to live

Worst. News. Ever. I try not to ogle celebrities or really anyone too often, but seeing Kate Winslet naked has always been a guilty pleasure. And it now appears that that guilty pleasure will only come via DVD.

Kate is quoted about future nudy scenes in her interview with Time:
"I think I won't do it again: a) I can't keep getting away with it, and b) I don't want to become 'that actress who always gets her kit off.'"
Please, Kate, please be the actress who always gets her kit off. We love it when you take off your kit! No more kit!

In related news, I've crawled into a hole, and I'm now rocking back and forth in a fetal position while sobbing. Continue reading this post >>

NOOO! They're all gonna laugh at you!

Baby Laugh-a-Lot will make you laugh! A lot! (And haunt your soul.)
Continue reading this post >>

18 February 2009

Kittens help you get through the week!

Continue reading this post >>

17 February 2009

Mr. Fancy Computer makes Oscar predictions

Nate Silver, likely suffering from political polling withdrawals, was hired by New York magazine to put some Oscar data into a fancy computer machine, and then that fancy computer machine pooped out statistical leaders for the Oscars. (The article goes into details that are only slightly more detailed than that.)

Silver's predictions are, well, predictable. Rourke wins best actor, Winslet wins best actress, Slumdog Millionaire wins best picture, etc. I was more excited by the headline than the actual article, but I love the Oscars and pretty much anything associated with them. (They're like my Super Bowl. Deal with it.)

The only surprise for me was in the best supporting actress category. Here are Silver's numbers:
Taraji P. Henson.......................51.0%
Penélope Cruz..........................24.6%
Viola Davis..............................11.6%
Amy Adams..............................11.6%
Marisa Tomei............................1.2%
Taraji Henson played Benjamin Button's mom. She was, you know, fine, but I just can't imagine her winning this award, and I have a really hard time accepting that Viola Davis has only a 11.6% chance for a win. Of course, I also feel like Doubt should win the best picture award. Continue reading this post >>

16 February 2009

Plug: Listening Lounge on KFAI

Emily produced a wonderful short piece for KFAI's Listening Lounge this past spring, and now she's stepping up her involvement. My bias aside, I've been impressed when I've listened to the show. And now my bias front-and-center, Emily is getting more involved in the production of it.

The Listening Lounge airs every Monday night from 7 - 7:30 p.m. For those of you in the Twin Cities, catch it on 90.3 FM in the west metro and 106.7 FM in the east metro. Or anyone can listen to KFAI's live stream by going to the 'Listen Now' link on the left-hand side of their website.

Here is tonight's program:
“Lynching’s End?: the Great 1930 Texas Courthouse Race Riot” is the story of one of the last incident’s of the so-called “race riot era.” Thousands of white men, women and children besieged, burned, dynamited, torched and destroyed the Grayson County Courthouse in Texas to get at a confessed black rapist on trial inside. The mob drove off Texas Rangers and National Guards, then went on to terrorize the town of Sherman's black community and torch the black business district. African-Americans, scholars and citizens alike still struggle to understand why it happened. But one immediate result was the formation of the pivotal Association of Southern [White] Women for the Prevention of Lynching.
Continue reading this post >>

Just like Britney, I'm back and leading the circus

First, you think, Eh, I'll take a day off from the blog. And then a day turns into two, two turns into three, and here we are, almost a week without a new post.

I'm sure you all (all 4 of you) have been deeply saddened by the lack of posting activity.

Anyway, I'm starting to stew over the Oscars more and hope to have a post up about my thoughts by the end of this week. (Anticipation!) I still need to see The Wrestler, which I also hope to accomplish by the week's end.

Last night, I saw Coraline (in 3D!). It was great. It reminded me of Pan's Labyrinth. But seriously, I highly recommend Coraline. The storyline (thank you, Neil Gaiman) was excellent. The movie knew what it was, committed to that, and filled out the details with enchanting visual gestures. It was stunning just to watch. And I thought the 3D aspects were well done -- subtle and purposeful.

I read about the advent of 3D in cinema in the City Pages about a month-and-a-half ago. The article focused on DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg's belief that in the future we'll think of 3D effects the same way we think about sound and color now. I found the argument compelling, but those types of arguments always sound convincing to me. Then I hear someone who actually knows something tell me otherwise, and I feel like an idiot.

Speaking of which, I've read quite a bit of follow-up on Walter Isaacson's piece in Time about paying for online media content that is currently free. Originally, I thought Isaacson made some valid points, but then I read Michael Kinsley's response in the NY Times:
Micropayment advocates imagine extracting as much as $2 a month from readers. The Times sells just over a million daily papers. If every one of those million buyers went online and paid $2 a month, that would be $24 million a year. Even with the economic crisis, paper and digital advertising in The Times brought in about $1 billion last year. Circulation brought in $668 million. Two bucks per reader per month is not going to save newspapers.
If you're really interested in new media, you can read some opinions by people who actually have experience and knowledge about the topic, which have been aggregated by our good friends at the NY Times. And one of them belongs to MinnPost's Joel Kramer, who advocates free online content and higher-priced premium content in print form.

Oh, and on Valentine's Day, I tried to make a heart-shaped pancake for Emily. I suck:
Continue reading this post >>

09 February 2009

But how will I write in the margins?

Last week, Ars Technica posted an article by John Siracusa on the past, present, and future of electronic readers. It's exhaustive. And long. Yesterday, Andrew Sullivan pulled out this excerpt from Siracusa's article, which does the best job of explaining the obstacles facing the transition from hard copy books to electronic readers:
If you remain unconvinced, here's one final exercise, in the grand tradition of a particular family of Internet analogies. Take all of your arguments against the inevitability of e-books and substitute the word "horse" for "book" and the word "car" for "e-book." Here are a few examples to whet your appetite for the (really) inevitable debate in the discussion section at the end of this article.

"Books will never go away." True! Horses have not gone away either.

"Books have advantages over e-books that will never be overcome." True! Horses can travel over rough terrain that no car can navigate. Paved roads don't go everywhere, nor should they.

"Books provide sensory/sentimental/sensual experiences that e-books can't match." True! Cars just can't match the experience of caring for and riding a horse: the smells, the textures, the sensations, the companionship with another living being.

Lather, rinse, repeat. Did you ride a horse to work today? I didn't. I'm sure plenty of people swore they would never ride in or operate a "horseless carriage"—and they never did! And then they died.
Like I said, the article is a bit long, but if you're interested in the subject, it's worth the read. (There is a nice section on why Apple hasn't gotten into the e-reader market on page 5.)

I think this conversion to digital reading is inevitable, and I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing. That being said, I'm always going to keep hard copies of books I like around (and probably quite a few copies of books I don't like as well). Just like there is something about the crackle and fizz of vinyl, there is something about the feel and smell of a book. And I hear you fellow English majors: what about marginalia? But I wouldn't mind having a portable device to carry around multiple books or periodicals on trips.

The technology will probably evolve beyond what I can see before it becomes as commercially viable as the iPod, perhaps allowing all media (movies, books, music, television, etc.) to fit on one handy little gadget.

Related: And as everyone knows, Amazon released the Kindle 2 yesterday! Check out the Ars Technica review. Continue reading this post >>

07 February 2009

We should probably buy the cow

Walter Isaacson proposes a novel idea in Time this week: paying to read the online content of well-established newspapers. What?!?!

Frankly, I don't know why this idea isn't raised more. Isaacson goes through the details and the numbers regarding subscriptions and advertising revenue, but one of my dad's favorite sayings fits the situation: why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free? I would love to subscribe to the hard copy of the New York Times, but I can't afford it right now, so I just read it online for free.

Isaacson proposes (rightly, I think) that online media organizations shouldn't charge flat fees for total access. Instead:
The key to attracting online revenue, I think, is to come up with an iTunes-easy method of micropayment. We need something like digital coins or an E-ZPass digital wallet — a one-click system with a really simple interface that will permit impulse purchases of a newspaper, magazine, article, blog or video for a penny, nickel, dime or whatever the creator chooses to charge.
Seriously, read the whole article. It's worth it. Continue reading this post >>

06 February 2009

Sleepy kittens on a Friday

If you don't think this is cute, you don't have a heart:
Continue reading this post >>

Education philosophy on MPR today

Today at 9 a.m., MPR's Midmorning will feature a discussion on T-Paw's proposal to put ninth grade students on a career track. I love discussions on the liberal arts. I think this one might be interesting...

Listen to the stream at www.MPR.org.

I will probably write down some reflections, with a possible post coming later today. Continue reading this post >>

05 February 2009

Pyramid scheme or cult?

Today, I received an interesting little message on Facebook. It came from a person I knew in high school. This person and I were barely friends, but decent acquaintances. The point of the message was to entice me about a healthcare product called Advocare.

As you will see, I have omitted the person's name at the end, but otherwise, this is the exact message I received:
Hi,

I have been thinking of my friends and family a lot lately (especially you) and I wanted to let you know that I apperciate you.

I am just wondering if you would like to make some money ($30,000 to $40,000 per year part time), feel better, or just look better (and maybe lose a few pounds in the process). Because I did, I wanted to feel better, look better, and yes lose some weight.

I am so EXCITED about a product that I have been on for a while now, and finally have started to use is correctly. I feel so good, I want to share the news with you.

Please call me, email me, facebook, or even show up on my door step, I just really want to share my story with you about how Advocare changed my life, and how it can change yours too.

If you are not interested please tell anyone who maybe interested to give me call.

With the warmest thoughts and wishes,

(Person's name)
Uh, okay.

My favorite part is the fact that it's meant to sound like it was personally written, but doesn't even have my name in it. But apparently I've been "especially" on this person's mind. (Creepy.)

And while it seems pretty obvious this is some type of pyramid scheme, it also sounds like a cult. An Advocare cult.

I went to the person's Facebook page. The status updates for the last two weeks are all about Advocare:
...just took a Advocare Spark and is feeling GREAT!!! How about you?
...is at work and LOVING HER ADVOCARE!!!!!!!!! It is going to be a good day!!!!!!
...is at work and LOVING HER ADVOCARE!!!!
...is at work and Thanking God for Spark and Advocare!!!!!!!!
...is wondering if anyone else would like to have more engery, lose a few pounds, or make some more money? I am doing all three and want to help you do.
...is wishing I had my Advocare spark. My butt is dragging. :)
...is loving her Advocare for giving her energy!!!
...is at work and wondering if this is all there is? Work day in and day out just to get by?
I wonder if this Advocare thing started somewhere between the last two updates? Existential crisis. Then Advocare. Crisis solved! Advocare is a miracle worker!!!

Update 9/15/2011: I heard from an Advocare devotee, who was actually quite nice and just wanted to share a different perspective on Advocare. Fair point: perhaps the tactics of some of those who are selling the product don't actually reflect the product itself. If I were more industrious, I would probably do more research, but...nah.

Here's the email I received in its entirety:
Hi Tanner :)
I stumbled upon your blog thanks to Google not relaying my search request appropriately...i can't even remember what it was now. Anywho, I tried to comment on one of your blog posts about your delightful friend that attempted to solicit you to join their "Advocare cult/pyramid scheme" but you'll soon notice that I am not a woman of few words. I apologize in advance for how long it is. I just can't stand it when dumb people join AdvoCare and do the things you and the other commenters complained of. I highly doubt you'll A. read my response at all or 2. trust that I am being sincere with everything mentioned. I'm not posting my website or any kind of link to try and sell you anything. Last thing I'd like to touch base on is the Cult/Pyramid Scheme reference to AdvoCare. 1. Imagine the movie, "Yes Man!" ....we are NOT that. 2. The definition of Pyramid Scheme is a non-sustainable business model that requires an investment in which there are no actual products, goods or services being returned on that investment. In AdvoCare, you never put money in where you don't get what you paid for. Example: Products @ retail cost- you choose to purchase a box of "X" product that costs "X" amount of dollars. Even exchange. Thats called Free-Enterprise. Now, when someone signs up for a wholesale/costco-ish membership just wanting a discount- $79 for a kit that includes a website, $50 worth of products, instant 20% discount on all products-no hassling-no minimum purchase requirements, nothing. Assume that new Member/Distributor decides they'd like to have a full stock of their nutritional supplements(equal to someone that purchases from Costco in bulk)- They choose to order $1500 of their products and click to Checkout only to notice [insert lightbulb moment here] that they now have a 30% discount on their products for-ever and are only paying $1,050 for them. Therefore, they purchased $1500 in product for $1,050. Then their neighbor decides to buy $150 worth of product from them....they have the right to choose to charge Retail Cost(making a profit of 30%) or giving a discount as high as what they paid for the product. Either way, no money is lost, investment-returned. High five. Hallelujah. Amen! :) I've said my peace. Thank you for your time and please take this as informative...not argumentative. I come and leave in peace. lol

"First things first, I AM a part of AdvoCare but prior to taking products/becoming a part of the company, I made fun of all of the girls I knew that were taking these products...until I tried them. I researched every possible thing I could find on AdvoCare-hunting for all things bad that would disprove my own instincts. I like to consider myself a modern day "nancy drew" and I dug deep. Low and behold, the products and the company are legit. I'm no millionare, nor do I profess that I anyone will make millions from doing the business. The facts are facts when it comes to AdvoCare. I have my own product & business story but it really doesn't matter cause there are a million of both out there. I have many friends, family members and people I've never met before AdvoCare that are signed up with AdvoCare. Some wanna enjoy their discount & thats cool. Some want to earn an income-thats cool also. I'm here to help with whatever they need but I certainly don't push products on people or make them feel bad if they aren't interested. Not everyone is that way, I know. One or two rotten apples can spoil the whole dozen...in this case, there are probably thousands of bad in a lot of 160,000. That being said, those friends of yours need to be told to pipe down cause they're ruining it for the rest of us. As far as the products and AdvoCare as a company, I will strongly disagree for a few of many reasons:

*The founder of the company, Charlie Ragus, was already wealthy and didn't need to start the company to make a profit. He said, "We are going to do one thing better than anyone on the planet."
*Our products are formulated by 12 doctors on our Scientific & Medical Advisory board with over 250 years combined experience. One of them: Dr. Stanley Dudrick. Google him. He pioneered the invention of TPN (intravenous feeding through the tube). These doctors aren't going to put their prestigious reputations on the line for products that aren't of the utmost quality.
*All products are Informed Choice certified aka tested for over 196 banned substances. Safe enough for Olympic Athletes & professional athletes. You will find AdvoCare products in every single NFL locker room for not only the fact that our products WORK, but they don't have to worry about failing a drug test and ruining their careers. AdvoCare is also NCAA certified. Which leads me to our UNPAID endorsers: Colt McCoy, Carli Lloyd, Christian contemporary artist-Michael W. Smith and our National Spokesperson- Drew Brees, whose only monetary form of payment is AdvoCare's donations to his Drew Brees Foundation...just to name a few.
*Look up the "Texas Tech Spark Study: Spark vs Ritalin" Also, Spark has less the amount of caffeine as a cup of coffee. I'll be glad to post a comparison chart.
*FDA approval means absolutely nothing. AdvoCare doesn't fall in the category of companies that need FDA approval. We are a Nutrition company. We are not a Food or Drug company. However, I always wonder to what standard people hold the validity of any FDA approved product. Visit the FDA website and check out how many recalled food or drug items there are for that certain day. TONS. Infectious diseases, medications that weren't manufactured correctly, etc etc. Fen-Phen was FDA approved...research that one a little bit.

Even though the above mentioned facts are just the tip of the iceberg as far as AdvoCare, it hurts my heart that people get so caught up in the money hungry part of it that they don't even stop to realize that the difference in AdvoCare vs any other Health Food store/GNC/wal mart vitamin is that these. products. work. They work when in conjunction with a healthy diet and exercise. Sorry, but there is NO magic pill and we don't advertise that. If you didn't gain that 80+ lbs overnight-don't expect to lose it overnight. If you haven't tried the products-you can't judge the products. If you're not a part of the business-you can't judge its validity. When someone doesn't have success with the products or business, there is something they did wrong. I have both success stories on the smaller spectrum of the company but paying off $17,000 & becoming debt free in a year to be able to stay at home with my 2 year old and finally have the option to purchase a home WHILE enjoying products that keep me feeling great & semi-sane most days ;) ... improving my health and the future of my family-I have AdvoCare & my hard work to thank for it. Sorry for the novel yall!"
Continue reading this post >>

04 February 2009

I am, like, so not self-involved

The 25 Things list sensation is sweeping the Facebook nation! And now I'm going to spread it to the blog world!!!

Actually, what I find most interesting is the process that everyone goes through before actually doing it. There is the seemingly required pretense of I usually don't like to talk about myself this much, but everyone is doing this, and so I guess I will too!

That's the benefit of being in some kind of public arena like Facebook: you get to look at other people and they look at you. Hell, the latter is pretty much the whole reason of having a blog. And the list is a seriously under-valued genre.

I actually found writing my list to be kind of therapeutic, so here it is:
1) When I was young, my brother played the Pharaoh in a high school production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. I listened to the soundtrack of the show religiously, and to this day, I know all the words to all the songs.

2) In middle school, I created a new Star Trek series that centered on a training ship for Star Fleet cadets. My character was the budding leader who was destined for greatness and the primary love interest of the hot female cadet. I made a uniform out of a t-shirt, a shoe string, and sparkly glue.

3) When instant messaging or texting or any electronic communicating, I try stick to the technical rules of grammar and use capital letters, full words, etc.

4) If I could pick anything to be successful at, it'd be writing. It's hard for me to write. I don't think I'm a good writer. But I love it.

5) I try to understand life through art, and I mean art broadly: music, plays, books, movies, poetry, visual art, etc.

6) I want to help other people understand life through things I create.

7) I was really haphazard about my college search and only kind of stumbled on Coe College. Best stumbling I've ever done.

8) I think farts are hilarious. And I always will.

9) My Grandma Curl died when I was 15 years old. She was such an important person in my childhood. I wish more than anything that I could talk to her, and I often wonder if she'd be proud of me and what I'm doing with my life.

10) I love the combination of good scotch and a cigar. Delicious.

11) Someday I hope to play Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof. When alone in my apartment, I sometimes sing and dance along to the soundtrack.

12) I was 16 years old before I had my first kiss.

13) For about two months in 2006, I convinced myself that I was Edward R. Murrow reincarnated.

14) My favorite writer is David Sedaris.

15) I want to wear blue jeans most days of my life. I am not a fan of dress slacks, but I love suit jackets.

16) I feel like my vocabulary and grammar are far inferior to those of most other English majors.

17) When I was in elementary school, I found a fully-illustrated guide to sexual positions in the Charles City Public Library. I cherished that book and spent many hours plotting a scheme to steal it. One day, I went to look at it, and it was gone. It never came back. I was devastated.

18) I still don't know why my parents named me Tanner. I've asked them, and they always respond, "We just kinda liked it." I hated the name in my childhood, but now I like it.

19) I have only puked twice in the past 14 years.

20) Sometimes I like listening to catchy music that doesn't have good lyrics.

21) Most of the food I eat is either a carb or a dairy product.

22) After graduating from Coe and saying goodbye to my friends, I cried for half of the two-hour drive to Charles City.

23) I admire Bob Marrs very much. I don't want to be exactly like him, but I aspire to his ideals. I keep a key to the Coe Writing Center on my key ring to remind me of those ideals.

24) I don't read as often as I should. And too much of my reading consists of political blogs.

25) This list took me two hours to write.
Continue reading this post >>

Commonplace Book Excerpt: The History Boys

When I'm reading, I like to write down notable excerpts in my commonplace book. (Notability, in the case, means insightful or humorous or challenging or just plain interesting.)

I recently re-read Alan Bennett's play, The History Boys. I saw the production at the National Theatre in London at the tail end of my study abroad experience. Shortly thereafter, the production went to New York and became a movie.

This quote from Hector, a teacher of "studied eccentricity," perfectly fits what I love most about literature and the arts:
Hector: The best moments in reading are when you come across something -- a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things -- which you had thought special and particular to you. Now here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out and taken yours.
Continue reading this post >>

02 February 2009

A new name

It's been almost a month since I started this little experiment. And I've been thinking: it's kind of lame that the title of the blog is just my name.

But I'm having trouble thinking of the awesomest, attention-grabbing-est, cleverest, deepest-meaningest title.

Any ideas? Continue reading this post >>

Phelps! Pot! Outrage!!!

Thank you, Michael Phelps. It looks like Britney is starting to get her stuff together again, and frankly, in these times of despair and uncertainty, we needed someone to fall. Big time. And you fit the bill perfectly. Gold medals coming out the wazoo. Boyish, all-American charm. Your country came calling, and once again, you've come through for us. Let the stoning commence. (A pun!)

Just a few of the highlights from Phelps's Facebook wall this morning (click to enlarge):

And in fairness, most of the posts on Phelp's Facebook wall are in support, but the non-supportive notes seem particularly childish. The boy has done enough -- let him take a hit. Continue reading this post >>

31 January 2009

The beginning of the end for print journalism in 1981

David Brauer recently posted on a video that's going around. It's a 1981 TV news story about an electronic edition of a newspaper. A text-only version of the San Francisco Examiner took two hours to download. Incidentally, that's how long it still takes for my parents to look at a website with their dial-up on the farm.

I read the New York Times on my computer everyday. For free. I read pretty much all of my news on-line. For free.

Why is the print journalism industry tanking? Continue reading this post >>

Strib tackles Facebook, boobs, and babies

Here's the first line from the story in today's Strib:
A recent Facebook controversy, in which some photos of nursing mothers were yanked from the social-networking site because of their potentially "pornographic" nature, is the latest reminder that our country's sexualized notion of breasts remains, shall we say, front and center.
And yes, Star Tribune, we shall say boldly: front and center! Trust me, there are a number of lines in this article that are quite funny, particularly when taken out of context (which I will do in good time).

But the breast-feeding debate is interesting. Emily and I have had it a few times. Emily's family takes breast-feeding pictures. I have seen pictures of Emily's mom breast-feeding, and once, I saw Emily's aunt pull out the boob for a feeding. My family doesn't really partake in that. My sister breast-fed my nephew for awhile, but there was always a blanket.

I guess, for me, I'm not offended or disgusted. I'm just always surprised. We'll be looking at Emily's baby pictures, and I'll be going along, innocently: How cute! Baby Emily is being held by her grandparents! There's Baby Emily crying! Oh, Baby Emily is being held by her mom. How sweet! Wait. What's that? Oh, dear lord. Boob!!!

I understand the benefits of breast-feeding, and I support the act. And I guess I'm willing to get past my boob-shock if it's more comfortable for the mother and child to do it unencumbered by a blanket. I suppose it's just a matter of what you're used to, and maybe, some of these people need to just get over it.

And now, let's indulge my immaturity. The article's funny lines (which are mostly quotes from people):
  • "However ... why would I want to flop out a milk jug and show the world? 'Hey, look at me. I got a jug, and I'm feeding my kid. I dare ya to say something.'"
  • "None of us wants to show you our big swollen boob."
  • "You try having a small person sucking on you six times a day."
  • While a bit of unidentifiable flesh is fine, a nipple or areola (the darker circle surrounding the nipple) falls into their definition of "obscene, pornographic or sexually explicit." [I'm envisioning some Strib copy editors debating if people know what areolas are.]
  • "But it's not like it's a normal nipple. It's a big, swollen, wet nipple."
  • She didn't like seeing women "completely naked from the waist up," with babies nearby but not latched on.
  • "These women are not putting tassels on their boobs."
  • "I don't want to see your saggy, stretch-marked breasts."
Continue reading this post >>

Colbert takes on Papa Bear

I've just been going through this past week's Colbert Report shows on-line. This is too good not to post:
Continue reading this post >>

30 January 2009

You can take the boy out of Iowa...

As of late, my fellow former Iowan, Ashton Kutcher, has been displaying some not-so-gosh-darn-nice Midwestern hospitality toward his neighbor, who is building some obscenely large mansion right next to Ashton's obscenely large mansion. And get this: construction has started at 7 a.m. and it is loud and Ashton has been losing sleep.

Because Ashton views himself as a role model, he has responded to the conflict in the most mature way, which is to say that he made a video where he calls his neighbor some not-so-nice names and wrote death threats toward his neighbor on his Twitter page. Oh, and then he posted the video on the internet for all the world to see:


And here are a few highlights from his Twitter:
  • I'm gonna kill my neighbor!
  • this ass clown has another thing coming!
  • holy moly I'm gonna lose it!
  • Jack ass 7am building a god damn fort next to my house f'in up my view and noise polluting the entire f'in nieghborhood with pounding steal
  • this SOB owl feces cougar placenta jack bone dick!
The internet: democratizing global communication for the good of humanity! Continue reading this post >>

29 January 2009

Milton for modern times

For a variety of reasons, I've been thinking a lot about the last lines of Milton's Paradise Lost lately. In the scene, Adam and Eve are leaving Paradise. They have fallen, and they look ahead to see chaos and uncertainty:
They looking back, all th' Eastern side beheld
Of Paradise, so late thir happie seat,
Wav'd over by that flaming Brand, the Gate
With dreadful Faces throng'd and fierie Armes:
Som natural tears they drop'd, but wip'd them soon;
The World was all before them, where to choose
Thir place of rest, and Providence thir guide:
They hand in hand with wandring steps and slow,
Through Eden took thir solitarie way.
I know it would have been hard for me to get through it without a Gina to guide me, but if you want to understand humanity a little better, read Paradise Lost. Continue reading this post >>

28 January 2009

Veggies too sexy for primetime

NBC has rejected this PETA ad to air during the Super Bowl:


PETA has listed the reasons NBC gave in their rejection:
  • licking pumpkin
  • touching her breast with her hand while eating broccoli
  • pumpkin from behind between legs
  • rubbing pelvic region with pumpkin
  • screwing herself with broccoli (fuzzy)
  • asparagus on her lap appearing as if it is ready to be inserted into vagina
  • licking eggplant
  • rubbing asparagus on breast
I guess PETA wins this one. All the media and consumer exposure without the Super Bowl ad rates. Continue reading this post >>

CBO reports coming out of the wazoo

Think Progress recently reported on the fake Congressional Budget Office analysis that was floated around last week as a criticism to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The supposedly leaked analysis claimed that it will take two years for a bulk of the proposed infrastructure funds to be spent, negating their immediate help to the economy.

Of course, conservative partisans and otherwise decent members of the media jumped on the fake report, because in politics, things like facts and reality aren't particularly important. It's better to just be right, regardless of reality. Or at the very least, stir things up with a little controversy.

Nonetheless, our watchdog friends in the media managed to mention the fake report 81 times as though it were fact. Think Progress has documented each mention. My favorite comes from the always colorful Glenn Beck of Fox News:
81) GLENN BECK: We had the numbers from the non-partisan, radical hatemongers, what a bunch of racists over at the Congressional Budget Office. They say, according to the CBO, only $26 billion. Just over 3 percent, will be spent in this emergency, quick get the money to the people, stimulus package this year. Three percent. [Fox News, 1/26/09]
Oh, and the CBO has issued its actual report. It estimates about two-thirds of the proposed investment money will be spent in the first 18 months after the legislation is passed. Continue reading this post >>

27 January 2009

The Catholics are revolting

There is a revolt going on in the Archdiocese of Boston. I caught this story on the ABC World News yesterday. Here's the gist:
In 2004, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston said it would close St. Frances X. Cabrini and a dozen other churches in the area because of financial problems and a shortage of priests. While most churches closed their doors, parishioners from St. Frances X. Cabrini sneaked in and took over. Four other churches from the Boston area archdiocese are also holding vigils.

... The archdiocese stripped the church of sacred objects, but 100 St. Frances X. Cabrini congregants operate what they say is a fully-functioning church, complete with rosary groups, Sunday school for their kids and, most provocatively, Sunday communion with wafers blessed by anonymous, sympathetic priests.
I was raised to be a devout Catholic in a rural Iowa parish, and I feel compelled to say that a large number of my childhood memories revolve around my experiences at Immaculate Conception in Charles City. I went to the Catholic elementary school, served as an altar boy, sang in the choir, received all the sacraments (with zeal!), went to the National Catholic Youth Conference, ate at many pancake breakfasts, etc. I mention these things to say that, even though I left Catholicism and became a non-believer in college, my upbringing in the Church will always remain a part of me, and I have many fond memories (as well as a few not so fond memories).

But, I digress.

What fascinates me about this revolt going on in Massachusetts is that, in the hours and hours I've spent thinking about the Catholic Church, I never really thought of it as being so thoroughly undemocratic.

It was a constant worry of our parish that we'd lose our priest or be forced to share one with another church, but I don't remember anyone contemplating any kind of action like these vigils. The Diocese would do what it wanted to do with little accountability to its members, and that was that.

I can't think of many Catholics who would tolerate such treatment from their government, so why do they tolerate it from their religion? Continue reading this post >>

Logic and emotion in decision-making

Jonah Lehrer makes sense and scares the hell out of me:
Ever since the time of the ancient Greeks, we've assumed that humans are rational creatures. When we make a decision, we are supposed to consciously analyze the alternatives and carefully weigh the pros and cons. This simple idea underlies the philosophies of Plato and Descartes; it forms the foundation of modern economics; it drove decades of research in cognitive science. Over time, rationality came to define us. It was, simply put, what made us human. There's only one problem with this assumption: it's wrong. It's not how the brain works. For the first time in human history, we can look inside our brain and see how we think. It turns out that we weren't engineered to be rational or logical or even particularly deliberate. Instead, our mind holds a messy network of different areas, many of which are involved with the production of emotion. Whenever we make a decision, the brain is awash in feeling, driven by its inexplicable passions. Even when we try to be reasonable and restrained, these emotional impulses secretly influence our judgment.
Lehrer's new book How We Decide elaborates on what we think when we make decisions. Continue reading this post >>

26 January 2009

Wasting Time: Sweet Obama Inauguration Photo Edition


At first glance, David Bergman's panoramic picture of the Obama inauguration doesn't look to be anything special. What's the big deal? My little Canon can take panoramic pics, right?

Wrong.

This photo has 1474 megapixels! I don't really know what that means, but it is badass!!! (Thankfully, for people who care to know, Bergman explains everything on his blog.)

When you look at the full-screen version on Gigapan (and you must), you can zoom in to see faces in pretty stunning detail. I anticipate spending hours looking for the following: celebrities (Oprah!), nose-pickers, people asleep (Yeah, I'm looking at you Justice Thomas.), and other amusements.

It's like political Where's Waldo? (Find Congressman Eni Faleomavaega from America Samoa!) Continue reading this post >>

Coming up...

I've been relying too much on posting videos and other non-me-generated content lately.

I'm working on a post about porn and feminism and another about the Academy Awards, as I've now seen all the best picture nominees! (If you have strong opinions on any of these, you should comment or send me a note. I'm still a bit undecided.) I still plan on seeing The Wrestler, as well as a few of the others through Netflix.

Hopefully these posts will be up very, very soon. Continue reading this post >>

24 January 2009

Gitmo's World

Oh, Daily Show:
Continue reading this post >>