Denial is a River In Washington DC

[ Comments Off ]Posted on March 1, 2013 by admin in Politics

When you’re drunk on power, you’re bound to act like an addict. Maybe it’s time for an intervention.

My name is Washington, and I’m powerless in the face of power“. That’s a chorus I’d like to hear, as the message machine in DC and the megaphone of the media collude to try to drill the phrase “fiscal cliff” from our brains with the word “sequester”. Quite comically, if you Google “sequester”, one of the top results is a definition of the verb form, which is “to isolate or hide away someone or something” using the example “the artist sequestered himself in his studio for two years”. While this seems uncannily accurate in the case of Washington’s addict-like behavior (more on that in a moment), verbs represent action, and we have little hope of seeing any of that in Washington. So we’re left with the more obscure definition, a noun that means “A general cut in government spending”. Which also seems grossly inaccurate; there’s nothing “general” about these automatic budget cuts. They’re the very specific result of a total abandonment of responsibility on the part of a bunch of overpaid, underperforming, self-obsessed twits who are supposedly at the driver’s wheel of our country. And that’s the scary part. The paralyzing partisanship in DC means that two hands are on the wheel of a battered vehicle with no forward visibility, flat tires, and low on fuel, and the only thing they can agree upon is that the car should keep moving at all costs. And you and me? We’re like the huge codependent families who – in spite of knowing that our friend is a drunken idiot making absurd claims about another drunken idiot – stand faithfully on one side of the argument or other, pointing fingers. This analogy is not really much of a stretch,  David Ignatius of the Washington Post framed it as a Political DUI, and when I made this general analogy to an addict’s “I’ll quit next week, I promise” behavior, a friend of mine agreed, saying “Basically, our goverment decides it will take antabuse to stop drinking, and then goes ahead and drinks, anyway“. If Washington can’t deal with its addiction and gambling problems, maybe it’s time we did an intervention.

Clear Channel’s Bizarre Post 9/11 Song Blacklist

[ Comments Off ]Posted on February 28, 2013 by admin in Music

In the wake of a terrorist attack, you sure don’t want people Dancing in the Streets, Walking Like an Egyptian, or listening to Louis Armstrong singing “What a Wonderful World”, now do you.


An unfortunate collision of world
events and visual theme can really
put a ding in your sales.

The other day I happened upon a tune I had forgotten existed, a song by Afro Celt Sound System called When You’re Falling, with Peter Gabriel on vocals (video below). It’s an uplifting tune with a persistent and catchy mandolin riff and Gabrielesque vocals and percussion, generally perceived around the world as a positive song about love and resilience. I actually own the CD it’s on, so I couldn’t for the life of me think of why it was that I had so completely forgotten about it. But as I did some quick poking around, I discovered one likely factor. The CD the song was on was released on June 19, 2001, so it would have been getting a little rotation just before September 11. Within just a couple of days of the attacks, Clear Channel circulated an internal memo with a recommendation of 165 songs that it might be inadvisable to play in the aftermath of the 9/11 tragedy. If you do a little research, you’ll find that even Snopes is willing to reinforce Clear Channel’s attempts to distance themselves from the absurd list, but if you examine the language of Clear Channel’s backtracking in the press, they don’t deny issuing the list, they just try to frame it as some casual “recommendation”. But as anyone who has worked in a corporate environment knows, defying a “recommendation” can put your position in just as much peril as blatantly violating a clearly stated company policy. So Clear Channel’s denials are patently absurd. But not nearly as absurd as the list of songs. While you can almost understand items like Billy Joel’s “Only the Good Die Young” – not so much because of the lyrics but because the song is kind of crap in the first place – the list in its entirety is utterly preposterous. Louis Armstrong’s What a Wonderful World? Elton John’s Bennie and the Jets? Nena’s 99 Red Balloons? Mitch Ryder’s Devil with a Blue Dress On? And then there are oddities like Alien Ant Farm’s cover of “Smooth Criminal” being on the list, but not Michael Jackson’s original version. See the entire list here, and tell us if you can find the logic behind it all. Below are a few of our choices for “Weirdest Choices for a Post-Terrorist Attack Blacklist” list. Read the rest of this entry »

Has the Local Library Outlived Its Purpose?

[ Comments Off ]Posted on February 27, 2013 by admin in Lifestyle & Culture

Has technology made community libraries a thing of the past? Are they just “a drain on taxpayers and authors that no longer makes sense”, as British children’s author Terry Deary says?

The other day, I borrowed the rather mediocre film I, Robot  from the local library. In it, there’s a scene where the CEO of the fictional US Robotics says to Will Smith’s character “maybe you would have simply banned the Internet to keep the libraries open. Prejudice never shows much reason.” Later in the day, I coincidentally ran across this piece about how best selling British children’s author Terry Deary thinks that libraries “are a drain on taxpayers and authors that no longer makes sense“. Frankly, I think his opinion is driven by his concern for revenue more than anything, and who knows – maybe he’s one of those cranky old guys who hates kids and is bitter about the fact that his financial success is entirely dependent on them. But I have to confess, the thought has crossed MY mind on occasion that maybe my once-beloved local library is becoming obsolete. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting we do another Library of Alexandria thing; I love books. In fact my idea of porn is a visit to the Huntington Library or watching videos of robotic library retrieval systems. But in an era when the consumption of trees solely for the purpose of storing information in them is no longer necessary, should we really keep doing it? As much as I love books, I completely embrace the migration to eBook readers and eBooks, partly because of the fact that eBooks are “greener” than “dead tree editions”. But probably more because I find it harder and harder to justify having so many books on shelves when my entire book collection could literally fit in my pocket. Although I don’t precisely subscribe to Seth Godin’s framing of libraries as mere “warehouses”, I don’t know – given such pervasive access to the internet – if they can really fulfill the same role they have for over a century. Libraries are one of the things a lot of modern people take for granted as a fundamental component of civilized society, when in fact the idea of a shared community library is relatively new, at least in the larger timeline of libraries in general. Straightdope.com has a great overview of the history of libraries if you’re interested, and regarding the debate about whether they’re obsolete, the Harvard Library did an Oxford-style debate last year. Video here, and expanded notes from one of the debaters here. And me? I think at the very least libraries need a dramatic rethink. What do you think? Read the rest of this entry »

Will You Shut Up About The Oscars Already?

[ Comments Off ]Posted on February 26, 2013 by admin in Missing Links

Right after you view an amazing roundup of Oscar GIF’s. Somewhere else. Last week we declared social media dead, this week it’s the Internet Meme and the GIF.

Our sentiments about the Academy Awards can be summed up pretty quickly. They’re stupid. If you don’t get why they’re stupid, Jerry Seinfeld sums it up well in this clip (video also below). But you know what made them even more stupid this year? The fact that for the first (and hopefully last) time in history, the post-awards commentary collided with the already-played-out animated-GIF-as-meme. Nothing says You’re Doing it Wrong  like the mainstream media trying to be hip by mining mercurial internet humor. And the incessant re-posting of the same decidedly not funny GIF’s on thousands of news and entertainment websites was a fitting eulogy for the animated GIF meme. So. We declared social media dead last week; this week we’re declaring the whole “internet meme” meme dead. Especially the animated GIF. The only effective humor to be found in most internet memes is driven by their obscurity and inside-jokiness. They almost universally are given birth deep in the bowels of Reddit, Something Awful, or 4Chan, enjoy a brief “humor event horizon”, and by the time they reach sites like QuickMeme.com, they’re even more unfunny than when someone tries to verbally explain a really funny single-panel comic that was based on a sight gag. So we apologize for recently capitalizing on the linkbait strategy of posting “funny YouTube clips and animated GIF’s” in our weekly Missing Links. Next week we’ll have a roundup of actually interesting links. Enjoy our farewell to the animated GIF and YouTubidity, after the Seinfeld clip below. Read the rest of this entry »

5 Peculiar Alternative Uses for Coffee

[ Comments Off ]Posted on February 25, 2013 by admin in Lifestyle & Culture

Kopi Lewak is soooo 2004. Here are five alternative uses for coffee that you may not have heard about. The last item may be NSFW, if putting coffee in your bum is not safe where you work.


Too Much Coffee Cat is always
on the lookout for clever
alternative uses for coffee.

As a result of the great coffee connoisseur explosion of the last decade, it seems everyone has become something of a coffee expert. This means that everyone probably also knows all the cool alternative uses for coffee, from gardening, to pest control, to air freshening. If you don’t know all of them, just search “alternative uses for coffee“; the same exact list seems to have been cut-and-pasted ten thousand times in a caffeine-induced re-blogging frenzy in an attempt to rank in Google for that search phrase. You also can’t impress people any more by sharing trivia like how Beethoven counted out 60 coffee beans each day (which probably explains the more frantic passages of his 9th symphony), or shock them with the fact that another alternative use for coffee is to eat and poop the beans, a use that is only exceeded in its peculiarity by the fact that you can buy the resulting beans on Amazon for four hundred bucks a pound. Oh. And make coffee with them. Although I find it a little annoying that guests will no longer drink the coffee I serve them unless I tell them the story of its organic source and artisanal roaster, there has been at least one positive side effect of this coffee snob explosion – I haven’t heard anyone say “expresso” for at least three years. So anyway, if you’ve carried this trend to its logical conclusion – i.e., the shade grown, hand-harvested, Kopi Lewak cold brew made with beans that were hand-roasted one at a time by virgins in Tuvalu and topped with a foam made from Siberian white tiger milk and flash frozen with liquid nitrogen, you may think your work is done, and that there is nothing more to learn. And you would be wrong. Below we’ve rounded up five more peculiar uses for coffee that you may not have heard of. You may want to skip the last one if you’re planning to eat soon, or if you have a mouthful of coffee that you might spew over your computer keyboard or mobile device. Read the rest of this entry »

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