Monday, October 1, 2012

Gangnam Style

It is important that you know about this, because it holds the all-time record for YouTube views and I've been seeing the term for weeks without knowing what it was about.
Also, I kinda get a self-parody here that's endearing.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Kinda Like A Leper Colony

Dina Martina, not Sarah Silverman, would be the funniest woman in America if only...

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Leaves: Pure Poetry


A leaf is filled with chambers illuminated by gathered light. In these glowing rooms photons bump around, and the leaf captures their energy, turning it into the sugar from which plants, animals, and civilizations are built.
Chloroplasts, fed by sun, water, carbon dioxide, and nutrients, do the leaf’s work. They evolved about 1.6 billion years ago when one cell, incapable of using the sun’s energy, engulfed another cell—a cyanobacterium—that could. That cyanobacterium became the ancestor of every living chloroplast. Without their chloroplasts plants would be left like the rest of us, to eat what they find. Instead they hold out their green palms and catch light. If there is magic in the world, surely this is it: the descendants of tiny creatures in leaves, capable of ingesting the sun.
And we are stardust. (Well, I suppose, technically, so are they.) Anyhoo, from this.

Vote!

From Sarah Silverman, the funniest woman in America.
(Virtually the only reason to watch The Aristocrats, except for, uh, it's important to know the reference.)

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Ted Hughes To His Son

Live like a mighty river.
I am glad to get the reminder today from Andrew Sullivan because I've been meaning to read about Hughes and Sylvia Plath, starting with Janet Malcolm's book, and maybe even approach his poetry. If it's anything like this letter, it's damned good.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

I'm Back, I Think

I blame my absence on the slow news month — August after all — but it could just as easily have been just general alienation of the can't-give-a-shit variety. I was actually thinking of getting off Facebook and dropping my internet service.
Can you imagine? Apparently neither can I.
Romney's deep pile of doo-doo today gives me hope. I was actually considering various headlines such as "Romney Suspends Campaign, Blames Obama For Being Too Likeable." Subhead: GOP Nominates Fill-In-The-Blank.
I just heard a good one today, too. Apparently The Daily Show from Tampa was titled something like Road To The White House, Jeb Bush 2016!
Anyway I wanted to post a whole bunch of stuff on Facebook yesterday and had to also restrain myself from alienating all my remaining friends again today, so I figured it was time to come back here, where only five people know my name (I'm looking at you, Adele, R.P., Mardie, and ... who's that over in the corner? Looking for who? Oh, she's the next blog over.) Three then. So be it.
Here's the thing I never should have put on Facebook. It was when I knew I was going off the deep end. From now on, I pledge to post Ze Frank stuff for contrariennes only. Who is Ze Frank, you ask. And well you might. I'm really not sure. Google him.
Oh hell, that's right. That's what I'm here for. Without further ado, Ze Frank.
Okay, I don't know how to do audio embeds anymore, so here's the link, it's the  track toward the bottom of the page he says is his favorite, but not the finished track at the very bottom. Sorry. I'll do better.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

For The Record

I feel like to day is worth noting, a harbinger of what's to come, a turning point, a tipping point.

Romney, Reid And...McCain

Talking Points Memo has been running informed commentary by a reader who has extensive knowledge and expertise in how Romney, thanks to Bain, may have paid little or no income tax for several years, just as Harry says.
Not directly linked to that commentary is the regularly surfacing fact that John McCain's campaign saw 23 years' worth of Romney tax returns when Mitt was under consideration for vice president.
So-o-o, why doesn't John or someone from his campaign speak up for Mitt and say, yeah, he paid income tax. Because he didn't, that's why.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Best Scene From Mad Men

Somebody who posted it called it that. I don't know, but it's pretty good.

I Really Love Lawrence Krauss

He's very entertaining. But a good case can be made that he's also full of shit, the shit being himself.
I get mad at Andrew Sullivan quite regularly, but who else would give me Ron Rosenbaum (I get mad at him, too) and Jim Holt, the greatest gifts of the day not including a sun emerging finally at 1:30 p.m.?
Why is there something, indeed?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Literature

Amazon readers review the best. I laughed so hard at this that I  was crying and clutching my middle:

The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway (1926)
“Here’s the first half of the book: ‘We had dinner and a few drinks. We went to a cafe and talked and had some drinks. We ate dinner and had a few drinks. Dinner. Drinks. More dinner. More drinks. We took a cab here (or there) in Paris and had some drinks, and maybe we danced and flirted and talked sh*t about somebody. More dinner. More drinks. I love you, I hate you, maybe you should come up to my room, no you can’t’… I flipped through the second half of the book a day or two later and saw the words ‘dinner’ and ‘drinks’ on nearly every page and figured it wasn’t worth the risk.”
I think that is perhaps the best book review I have ever read, on a par with A.O. Scott, a nerdy NYT movie reviewer who consistently manages to pierce my armor with something pithy and worthwhile.
I also think the Morning News is worth a daily read.

Even They Think It's Crazy

I used to think all the space stuff was a big yawn. But I changed.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Mother's Milk

I want to read the new book on breasts (or at least look at the pictures), but The Guardian has a pretty interesting excerpt about breastmilk.
 In 1982, the American Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery said "there is a substantial body of medical information and opinion … to the effect that [small breasts] are really a disease"

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Mexico Has A New President

And Wonkette has the scoop.
First off, he’s a slut. Big deal. So was Bill Clinton (and John F. Kennedy, for that matter). But a slutty assassin and wife killer (MAYBE!) is a totally different story.
I confess I didn't read a single Mexican election story although I saw the headlines. But how can you resist now? I still don't know his name. Pena? Is that it?

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

In Other Art News




MOMA sends me monthly newsletters and this month they were featuring F-111, an iconic James Rosenquist work that takes up four walls. When I was in NYC in 2003 I saw the only Rosenquist retrospective ever including his 35-foot long Econo-mist before its shipment to the German bank that commissioned it. I had no idea who he was or what I would be seeing when I went there. I can say it's been a major influence on my dreams and, apparently, my life. It was stunning but I could not get a print of any part of it and had to settle for one of a water lily, which hangs on my living room wall next to Lichtenstein's Big Dog opposite the front door. That would be more impressive if I had a vestibule. Anyway, Rosenquist is 79 now and he lost his home, studio and work stored for upcoming shows in a fire three years ago. I would like to cover three walls in my living room with something like his work. But then I'd have to get rid of all the stuff and learn the basics of billboard art.




Climate Change Hero

His name is Lonnie Thompson. And he's been a man obsessed.


His West Virginia farm upbringing came in handy as he challenged Mongol porters to contests shooting wild game. Other times, he went hungry. Once, in China, dinner was a bowl of stewed camel paws.
One more time, just for the record. Stewed. Camel. Paws.
As far as I'm concerned, these people are all honorary contrariennes.

The Outsource, er Offshore President

From Vanity Fair.
To give but one example, there is a Bermuda-based entity called Sankaty High Yield Asset Investors Ltd., which has been described in securities filings as “a Bermuda corporation wholly owned by W. Mitt Romney.” It could be that Sankaty is an old vehicle with little importance, but Romney appears to have treated it rather carefully. He set it up in 1997, then transferred it to his wife’s newly created blind trust on January 1, 2003, the day before he was inaugurated as Massachusetts’s governor. The director and president of this entity is R. Bradford Malt, the trustee of the blind trust and Romney’s personal lawyer. Romney failed to list this entity on several financial disclosures, even though such a closely held entity would not qualify as an “excepted investment fund” that would not need to be on his disclosure forms. He finally included it on his 2010 tax return. Even after examining that return, we have no idea what is in this company, but it could be valuable, meaning that it is possible Romney’s wealth is even greater than previous estimates. While the Romneys’ spokespeople insist that the couple has paid all the taxes required by law, investments in tax havens such as Bermuda raise many questions, because they are in “jurisdictions where there is virtually no tax and virtually no compliance,” as one Miami-based offshore lawyer put it.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Too Long For Facebook

Andrew Sullivan's perspective on Roberts' vote for the ACA includes one of the most concise, spot-on summaries of what the Republicans have been doing that I have ever read. It got my blood boiling and my fever rising. It is strikingly well-written.
It is the Rant O' Teh Decade.
 But it's too long for Facebook and may even be a bit over the 500-word fair use limit for this site. I'm running with it anyway.

One of the most strikingly anti-conservative aspects of today's allegedly conservative movement, after all, is its contempt for institutions, especially elite institutions that in any way limit the scope of fundamentalist ideology. And so Newt Gingrich's crucial innovation was throwing out the politeness and manners and decorum and rules and traditions of the House of Representatives in order to gain power by populist demagoguery. You can see his legacy in Tom DeLay's implementation of the Medicare D entitlement under Bush, an essentially lawless an rule-free process that made a mockery of parliamentary procedure. You saw this contempt for the rule of law, if it got in the way of desired policy, in the torture policy under Bush, cynically making the patently illegal "legal" through cynicism and double-speak. Similarly, McConnell's use of the filibuster is essentially a display of contempt for the American constitutional system, rigging the system to nullify legislative majorities and to conduct politics as a zero-sum war for power, rather than as a means to debate, discuss and implement necessary changes in an evolving society. The give-and-take of American constitutionalism has been essentially reduced by the GOP in the last two decades to take-and-take-some-more. They impeache one successful president, in an act so disproportionate to the offense (and the offense was real: Clinton was a shameless perjurer) that it helped gut any bipartisan functioning of an institution designed for deal-making across the aisles or within them.
They treated the 2000 election, when Bush lost the popular vote, as a landslide mandate election - again with no deference to the other side or sense of governing as one nation.
After Bush vs Gore and then Citizens United, I think Roberts saw the full political and constitutional consequences of a radical Court vote to gut the key legislative achievement of a duly elected president and Congress. In other words, he put the institutions of American government before the demands of partisan powermongering. And he deftly nudged the issue back into the democratic process, where it more comfortably belongs.






Julimac, Democratic Strategist

If I had any energy or stamina at all, I'd be raking in the big bucks this election season, because, sure enough, the Dems are doing exactly as I said they should.
First a little test-marketing, then some polling. If it works — and it will — go viral, strangle the R's with it, and drag 'em to the bathtub. We take back the House. Yay!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Sunday Morning Entertainment

I am considering printing out the Little Surrealist Dictionary and carrying it with me wherever I go. I'm not sure I need anything else until I get it memorized.
Sample:
Looking at the sea being ploughed by boats, the Buddhist priest Kanguen asked his deciple Daichi "Could you from your room stop those boats sailing past?" The young disciple closed the shutters. Then the master said: "All the same, you couldn't have stopped the boat if you had no hands."

The young disciple closed his eyes.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Colorado's On Fire


Scalia Agonistes?

I don't really know what that means exactly, but it seemed appropriate and was in my head from a piece on T.S. Eliot I read yesterday.
Anyhoo, so I sent this email to TPM this morning speculating that Roberts had to take control of the court, that if this decision went Scalia's way, he would be effectively the Chief Justice.
Then, an Andrew Sullivan reader threw this into the mix. Wow. Just wow.
There's something quite odd in my view about the Scalia opinion in the back. It's not a Scalia rant by and large; in fact it reads at the outset rather majestically, like he's delivering the opinion of the court. Even more strangely, it refers repeatedly to the "Ginsburg dissent," but Ginsburg is in the majority on most issues. What's all this about? Were the tables turned midway? Did Roberts first sign on to Scalia's opinion and then bail on him? Is that what Ginsburg was ribbing Scalia over in her ACS remarks? I suspect there is an amazing an untold backroom story behind this decision. It may be a while before we learn it. But the sense I have is that Scalia had the votes to take a sledgehammer to ACA, and then lost Roberts. Was it Scalia's overreaching and his overheated rhetoric that did him in? This may make an excellent Supreme Court mystery. But it points in the end to the complicated and rather ornery personality of Nino Scalia as a real burden for the court's conservatives.
I haven't read the opinions and probably won't, I like reading opinions about opinions. But, wow.

House To Try To Repeal ACA. Again

You heard it here first. Politico says the House will take another vote to repeal the ACA on July 9. That's fine. I don't even remember how it went. I think it lost. But I think it's great. I predict it will be a "reverse Wisconsin."
What most voters know is simply that the Supreme Court ruled, case closed, move on. If their House members can't get past it, they'll lose some important seats, maybe the full 25 it takes to reverse the balance. Democratic candidates will wrap the repeal vote around their necks and strangle them. Then drag them over to the bathtub to finish the job, eh Grover?
Of course, that's what I want to believe. I donated a small sum to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee yesterday. Made me feel good.

Headline O' Teh Day

SCOTUS ACA Decision: Take That You Zombies!
TGOP heads exploding across America. What a concept, what execution, coming soon to a voting booth near you. I'm up to my ankles in gore already. Back to you, Walter.

The Auld Sod

(Note to loyalists: I'm sorry I've been so lax. I was afraid for awhile I'd lost interest. But I think it was just indigestion.)
On to Edmond Burke, whose writing I once recommended to a drunken bar manager calling himself a conservative though I, of course, have never read anything by Burke except the occasional apt quote. This part of a piece on Burke just struck home not because of him, but because of the sheer brutality of life in the 18th Century.
On the January day he was born Éamon de Búrca, in the old tongue, in 1729, on Arran Quay on the River Liffey in Dublin, the English penal laws forbade Catholics from holding public office, marrying Protestants, owning weapons, serving in the military or as a lawyer or judge, voting, receiving public education of any sort or redress from arrest without cause by a representative of the king, purchasing land, inheriting land from Protestants, leasing land for more than 31 years, owning a horse worth more than five pounds, speaking their native Irish language, and building churches. (In the few cases where churches were allowed to be built, imperial law forbade the use of stone.) 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Motorcycle Queen Of Miami

Honorary Contrarienne Bessie Stringfield.

During World War II, Bessie worked for the army as a civilian motorcycle dispatch rider. The only woman in her unit, she completed rigorous training maneuvers. She learned how to weave a makeshift bridge from rope and tree limbs to cross swamps, though she never had to do so in the line of duty. With a military crest on the front of her own blue Harley, a "61," she carried documents between domestic bases. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The People's Economist

Elinor Ostrom has died. She was a contrarienne if ever there was one.
She was at first hired by the university, she said, because the political science department needed someone to teach a 7:30 a.m. class.
Previously.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Monday, May 28, 2012

Another Remarkable Woman

You've never heard of her because...do I need to ask? Okay, I'll concede, we've never hear of most major scientists.
Ruby Payne-Scott, definitely an Honorary Contrarienne.
During World War II, she was engaged in top secret work investigating radar. She was the expert on the detection of aircraft using PPI (Plan Position Indicator) displays. She was also at the time a member of the Communist Party[5] and an early advocate for women's rights. The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) was interested in Payne-Scott and had a substantial file on her activities, with some distortions.[
MetaFilter has more links.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Dept. of I Didn't Know That Dept.

THE WORLD'S MOST popular game is also its most corrupt, with investigations into match fixing ongoing in more than 25 countries. Here's a mere sampling of events since the beginning of last year: Operation Last Bet rocked the Italian Football Federation, with 22 clubs and 52 players awaiting trial for fixing matches; the Zimbabwe Football Association banned 80 players from its national-team selection due to similar accusations; Lu Jun, the first Chinese referee of a World Cup match, was sentenced to five and a half years in prison for taking more than $128,000 in bribes to fix outcomes in the Chinese Super League; prosecutors charged 57 people with match fixing in the South Korean K-League, four of whom later died in suspected suicides; the team director of second-division Hungarian club REAC Budapest jumped off a building after six of his players were arrested for fixing games; and in an under-21 friendly, Turkmenistan reportedly beat Maldives 3-2 in a "ghost match" -- neither country knew about the contest because it never actually happened, yet bookmakers still took action and fixers still profited.

My Thoughts Exactly

They sent me a gratitude poem yesterday. It's a good one.


Posted: 22 May 2012 11:00 PM PDT
Thank you whoever tuned the radio
to rain, thank you who spilled
the strong-willed wine for not
being me so I’m not to blame. I’m glad

I’m not that broken tree although
it looks sublime. And glad I’m not
taking a test and running out of time.
What’s a tetrahedron anyway? What’s

the sublime, 3,483 divided by 9,
the tenth amendment, the ferryman’s name
on the River Styx? We’re all missing
more and more tricks, losing our grips,

guilty of crimes we didn’t commit.
The horse rears and races then moves no more,
the sports coupe grinds to a stop, beginning
a new life as rot, beaten to shit, Whitman

grass stain, consciousness swamp gas,
the bones and brain, protoplasm and liver,
ground down like stones in a river. Or does
the heart’s cinder wash up as delta froth

out of which hops frog spawn, dog song,
the next rhyming grind, next kid literati?
Maybe the world’s just a bubble, all
philosophy ants in a muddle,

an engine inside an elk’s skull on a pole.
Maybe an angel’s long overdue and we’re
all in trouble. Meanwhile thanks whoever
for the dial turned to green downpour, thanks

for feathery conniptions at the seashore
and moth-minded, match-flash breath.
Thank you for whatever’s left.


Source: Poetry (February 2012).

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Dept. of Burning Bridges

Apparently you cannot even come back for a visit if the government decides you renounced your citizenship for tax purposes. Also, apparently, that option isn't enforced. On the other hand, in 2010, about 200 people renounced citizenship like the Facebook guy. Last year, nearly 1,800. It's getting to be A Thing for rich people.

Election Update

Andrew Sullivan and Talking Points Memo told me three interesting things today, which deserve to be linked.
1. The Obama SuperPac, which has had trouble raising money, has released a pretty tough ad in selected states focussing on Romney and Bain. The Obama campaign has another ready to go.



2. Romney is not answering questions today, trying to keep reporters away from him, possibly related to anticipated questions about the Bain ad.
3. It's way too early in the election season to make any judgements. In fact, it's likened to pre-season baseball.

Riding with a couple friends yesterday, one of them went into a rant about the birthers. I said who's raising that issue these days, and she couldn't actually think of anything. Then I read this today.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Pale Blue Dot


Can't see it? Well, see that brownish band on the far right? It's about half way down, looks like a speck of dust, really.
Voyager I took that picture at Carl Sagan's request just before it left the solar system.
What he had to say about it was pretty good. Thanks, MetaFilter.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Helluva Poem Today

They don't come along all that often, so it's worth noting when one does.

Oh, body, be held now by whom you love.
Whole years will be spent, underneath these impossible stars,
when dirt's the only animal who will sleep with you
& touch you with
its mouth.

The Dowager

Someone has Photoshopped a wonderful picture of the Dowager Countess to accompany a pretty fun — and short — piece on how Battlestar Galactica is like Downton Abbey. And, by extension, all stories are the same stories, a concept I first acquired when I read Robert Graves' The White Goddess and a principle I hold to this day, one of the reasons I'm really sick of fiction.
Anyway, I'm sorry they locked up that picture so I can't steal it. You will have to click the link.


“First electricity. And then telephones. I feel as if I were living in an H G Wells novel.”
The Dowager Countess Violet Crawley

Monday, May 7, 2012

One Of Those Moods

A Facebook friend alerts me to this charming analysis of Barack Obama's youthful literary efforts. It seemed to set off some sort of red alert in my brain, no telling why, so here's my rantful reply:
First the girlfriend, but it wasn't juicy enough and didn't stick. Now, a couple of old grafs on T.S. Eliot. I used to be in the news business, and I've done some scraping of the barrel myself, but this is just hilarious. I couldn't help putting myself in the place of the poor hapless reporter having to fill some white space. Just a few quick calls, give me 15 inches, honey. Feeding the beast, it's called. Of course the winners in all this are the poetry profs, who probably haven't seen themselves quoted outside an obscure academic journal for, oh, like never. I bet they each saved a clip. And poor Bill Kristol, he wasn't fast enough on his feet there. A huge opportunity to bash Obama for signs of early socialism and what happens, some lit prof from Podunk U. scores the goal. Jeebus. You can't make this stuff up. Thanks, Jean. Six more months of this kind of thing. Bring 'er on! (I'm also thinking Wag the Dog and Primary Colors, the satire just writes itself.)

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Should I Have Breakfast For Dinner?

I have decided that I should. Pity it can't be this breakfast, though, prepared and served by the chap who writes of it. I have never written the word "chap" before, and I am 68 years old.

Friday, May 4, 2012

1981. I Remember It Well.

No job, no prospects. Hanging on by my fingernails, a series of roommates. Bleak. Disastrous. It got worse. But the jobs report is not about me this time, and for that I'm grateful. I can just wonder at a week of so much rain that there is not just a puddle in the front yard, but a pond. Shallow, but still a pond.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Election Bylines 2012

This guy belongs at the top of the list. Also, Tim Weiner, Charlie Savage. I will try to keep you up to date.

Billy Collins Is A Natural

I tried to get him up onto Facebook a few weeks ago and failed because there are often times when technology is beyond my capacity. I'm going to try again now.

Monday, April 30, 2012

War Criminals

I had almost forgotten about Rodriguez. The fact that 60 Minutes did not is a good thing. The way they handled it? Crap.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

McFerrin Sunday

There are lots of great live videos on YouTube, I just liked this so much.

Venice

Has always been about commerce, commerce, commerce. Anyone who thinks otherwise is self-deluded. It's about busloads of Asian tourists descending on San Marco like so many locusts. It's about the African refugees spreading their blankets along the Grand Canal at dusk to hawk the knock-offs they're not allowed  to sell publicly in the daytime. Who knows, it may be about the purveyors of glass candy and masks concealing the (illegal) made-in-China origins of their wares.
Still, they have billboards now. It goes too far. Venice sells melancholy, not despair. Nobody will pay for despair. Not there. They have tarnished the brand. I am hoping they will come to their senses.


Saturday, April 28, 2012

Nugatory, Really? Really?

Martin Wolf of the Financial Times has occasionally written some compelling economic critiques. I think I first read something scathing by him courtesy of a Krugman link.
So anyway, he's reporting that two Very Important Economists — VIEs — say higher tax rates for the rich must include increases in capital gains taxes, although he strangely declines to use that term. (Maybe there are other kinds of income from capital, I wouldn't know.)
Anyhoo, thanks for the Word O' Teh Day, Martin.
Nugatory: without power.
At present, the far lower taxation of income from capital than from work makes the taxation of ultra-high incomes nugatory.
Oh, yeah. The bottom line:
Historically, the emergence of huge inequalities in wealth and political power has destroyed democratic republics, turning them into entrenched oligarchies, instead. This is bad politically. It is almost certain to be bad economically, too, as the oligarchy uses its power to reduce economic competition...The case for reform has become overwhelming. 
The Financial Times. The Financial Times.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Election Year Gold

"So remember, Americans, when you step into that voting booth, ask yourself, 'Who should I vote for, the guy I like. Or the guy I don't like'."



A Second-Best Mercedes

The best car ad evah has apparently been taken down from Craigslist, probably because once Andrew Sullivan linked it, the servers went on strike.
But here's a pretty good one for your amusement on this intermittently sunny but still ass-freezing cold last Friday in April.

Richard Nixon once said "Human existence is in the struggle." You could buy a car that will try and hide you from all the dangers of the world, but it won't save you; all the alarms, all the air bags, and the low sodium lattes in the world won't save you. Some day you will die. But at least you can die with the wind in your hair.
Alternatively it would make a good parts car.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Me Tarzan, You Fido

Dogs answer an age-old question, how come us and not the Neanderthals?
The dominance of modern humans could have been in part a consequence of domesticating dogs—possibly combined with a small, but key, change in human anatomy that made people better able to communicate with dogs.
I turn to observe the crew of three on the couch (Gus, who has declined to go outside yet, it is raining), the floor (Fat Mama Cooper, the canine meatloaf) and on my bed (Baby Shorty, nothing but the best for her). I believe they would help me survive if need be, they recognize mutual benefit.
On the other hand, Neanderthals just weren't all that smart, they hadn't innovated in 250,000 years, dogs or not. Dogs were just one of our new tools.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Catholic Bishops

Here's Sullivan's take.
This will be their cause - not saving universal healthcare from repeal, not bringing illegal immigrants out of the shadows, not protecting the poor, but affirming that religious liberty is at stake if they cannot keep the pill from their female employees' insurance, 98 percent of whom use it at some point in their lives anyway.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Depression: Not So Depressing Anymore?

Nice long piece in the NYT about the long history of diagnosis, theory and treatment. I missed some key elements going from pg. 1 to pg. 7 and rushing this to you, because I don't have time to read it all right now. Something about cell death in the hippocampus.
You're welcome.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

My Confirmation Bias

is to find as much evidence as I can that Freud was a fraud.
I never expect to learn otherwise. It's hard, baby, life is struggle.
Oh, wait...
...although Freud’s work is still a big part of pop culture and everyday language – Freudian slips, repression, anal retentiveness, etc. – it’s mostly bunk, and you know this because psychology became a proper science over the last century with rigorous lab work published in peer reviewed journals. Today, scientists are still slicing away at the problem of consciousness and the ego, or what we now call the self, and that brings us back to Roy F. Baumeister and his bowl of cookies.
I love this stuff, I really do. Especially when it tells me that my cigarette craving is not only normal, but mostly because I am ego depleted.

OMG, A Black Man In The White House!

I went to some trouble to get this recent picture of Obama sitting on the Rosa Parks bus while visiting the Henry Ford Museum, so I hope you appreciate it. Also.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Comment O' Teh Day

publishermike
If the GOP had its way, it would declare anyone who could not mark their ballot with their penis ineligible to vote.

Comment on a story about the Dems bringing up the Violence Against Women Act and the Republican objection to added protection for same-sex couples and illegal immigrants. Those victims will just have to relax and enjoy it apparently. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

It's Slacker Week

at Contrarienne's, not that I've been slacking, but I did blow off two regular and sometimes major activities just so I could, uh, slack off from being in constant mental and physical motion.
And as the enclosed analysis of a new entertainment trend toward young female losers indicates, Virginia Woolf says it's okay.
 "It is in our idleness, in our dreams, that the submerged truth sometimes comes to the top."
So put down that pen, that frying pan, that basket of laundry, that phone, that book. Hide your car keys.
Let your mind wander.
Turn off the internet. Well, on second thought, leave the internet on. It's life itself.
If I start making a movie about a 68-year-old retired woman who spends her days online and at the beck and call of three slacker dogs,  could I sell it to HBO?
 Uh, no.
Well, never mind, dear. Is there any more ice cream?

Smitten With Swinton

Tilda Swinton's great-grandmother. That is all.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Hospital 101

While we're at it, why not?
This guy can write. I hope he lives.
Even the light slanting in through the windows seems wan, drained of all radiance, as if it had undergone a bloodletting measured in lumens. 

Journalism 101

All the Very Serious People probably know who Moe Tkacik is, but I didn't until I ran across a link to her scathing piece about The Atlantic inside a Metafilter comment.
As a friend once said about me (not my writing), "difficult but worth it." (Thanks, friend. I cherish that.)
But back to Moe.
I did not really identify with the cool-hunting, brand-building, sneaker-collecting generation of professional consumers I worked over for trend-story ideas, but neither did my colleagues in the bureau seem to identify with the megalomaniacal talent agents and casino magnates or the disgruntled aerospace engineers and short sellers they talked to all day.

Monday, April 9, 2012

My Penguin, My Love

I know it's so 2005 or something but still, I'd like to wake up to this face every day. I would be laughing every morning. And stinking of fish.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

I Am Incognito

UPDATE: Facebook friends to the rescue. I have never been exactly what you'd call grateful for FB before. It's an odd feeling.

I have screwed up my email and can't seem to access my gmail account either. Aargh! I think I will have to pay for help. F****!

'Bugs Bunny Is My Muse'

As good as any, Billy.

Monday, April 2, 2012

'The Bank Doesn't Want Your House'

That's the conventional wisdom. I've been hearing it for four years. And finally, the bank made me a deal, made possible by a federal program, not its own deep aversion to taking back the property.
But consider this:

There are close to 650,000 foreclosed properties sitting on the books of lenders, according to RealtyTrac, a data provider. An additional 710,000 are in the foreclosure process, and according to the Mortgage Bankers Association, about 3.25 million borrowers are delinquent on their loans and in danger of losing their homes.
Now, it seems, the bank has more reasons than ever to want your house.

Not My Art

So far, thanks to the generous welcome of a terrific group of women and a few men in Kitsap County, I have learned that some visual arts require meticulous, painstaking attention to detail. Not to mention a steady hand.


Cannot draw a straight line if my life depended on it. Nice colors, though.






So far, I'm better off doing larger, less precise things. I'm not a printmaker, for sure. Nor am I likely to become a successful decorator of miniatures through the medium of wax on eggs. It was fun though. And exhausting.

Friday, March 30, 2012

All Hail, Crankocracy

Krugman makes a good point this morning (gleaned from elsewhere and he notes that).
...at least so far, the most visible effect of the Citizens United decision has been not so much a flood of corporate cash into politics as a flood of cash from billionaire cranks into politics. 
From Wiki, just to refresh your memory:
David Koch " is skeptical about anthropogenic Global Warming, and thinks a warmer planet would be good because "[t]he Earth will be able to support enormously more people because a far greater land area will be available to produce food...dislikes President Obama's policies. "He's the most radical president we've ever had as a nation... and has done more damage to the free enterprise system and long-term prosperity than any president we've ever had."[15] Koch believes that Obama's father's economic socialism explains what Koch views as Obama's belief in "antibusiness, anti-free enterprise influences."[15] Koch believes Obama himself is a "hardcore socialist" who is "marvelous at pretending to be something other than that." 
Sheldon Adelson owns and publishes  "a free daily newspaper to compete with Israeli, a newspaper he had co-founded in 2006 but had left.[7] The first edition of the new newspaper, Israel HaYom, was published on July 30, 2007.According to Target Group Index(TGI) survey published in July 2011, Israel HaYom, which unlike all other Israeli newspapers is distributed for free, became the number one daily newspaper (on weekdays) four years after its inception."
Just sayin'.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Modernity: Can I Handle It?

Ran across the name Atossa Araxia Abrahamian today and decided to finally go ahead and keep track of all the exotic, fantastic names I run across on a regular basis on teh intertubes.
Atossa, or Abrahamian if you prefer, is author of Fact Check!, a pretty good survey of trends especially in light of the recent Mike-Daisey-makes-up-China kerfluffle. She is an editor at something called The New Inquiry, which seems to be staffed with a lot of young people who would qualify for the term hipster if that term meant anything at all.
They are young, they are hip or something, they are highly educated, broadly aware, hypercritical and probably mostly come from wealth, but who knows. The sort of people I imagined I must have wanted to be at some time, maybe about age 15, before I realized they really didn't exist. J.D. Salinger's children or something.
Anyhoo, while perusing The New Inquiry, I also ran across one Christopher Chitty, who is "pursuing a PhD in the History of Consciousness program at UC Santa Cruz. He writes on the antinomies in the historiography of homosexual thought."
And I thought, "I just bet he does."
I am old. I am not prepared.
Did I mention these people are smart? I had to tear myself away from a story that begins with the bewitching fact that the Occupy movement in NYC was lead by a former Israeli settlement activist.
Also, they have another writer named Kevin Breathnatch. Gotta love it.


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

As Important As Einstein, A Woman?

Come now, how could that be?
Some consider Noether’s theorem, as it is now called, as important as Einstein’s theory of relativity; it undergirds much of today’s vanguard research in physics, including the hunt for the almighty Higgs boson
One of my favorite NYT science writers, Natalie Angier, explains.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Henrietta Swan Leavitt


"In 1908, an unheralded and at the time unappreciated would-be astronomer, Henrietta Swan Leavitt, was employed as a 'computer' at the Harvard College Observatory. ('Computers' were women brought in to catalogue the brightness of stars recorded on the observatory's photographic plates; women were not allowed to use the observatory telescopes at the time.) Daughter of a Congregational minister and a descendant of the Pilgrims, Leavitt made an astounding discovery, which she further illuminated in 1912: she noticed that there was a regular relationship between the brightness of Cepheid stars and the period of their varieation. Therefore, if one could determine the distance to a single Cepheid of a known period (subsequently determined in 1913), then measuring the brightness of other Cepheids of the same period would allow one to determine the distance to these other stars!...Leavitt's discovery revolutionized the field. (Hubble himself, who was snubbed for the Nobel Prize, often said Leavitt's work deserved the prize, although he was sufficiently self-serving that he might have suggested it only because he would have been a natural contender to share the prize with her for his later work.) Paperwork had actually begun in the Royal Swedish Academy to nominate Leavitt for the Nobel in 1924 when it was learned that she had died of cancer three years earlier. By dint of his force of personality, knack for self-promotion, and skill as an observer, Hubble would become a household name, while Leavitt, alas, is known only to aficiaonados of the field."
Lawrence Krauss, A Universe From Nothing

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Monday, March 19, 2012

Plouffe Better Get It Right This Time

is all I can say. Judging from what appears to be a new Democratic feistiness, I sort of hope he is. But then, I want to believe.
Krugman reminds me not to be too sanguine.
I have to say that the various accounts of what went wrong are converging on a very depressing picture, in which White House political “experts” actually believed that trying to please the Washington Post editorial page was a winning political move.
From an earlier column on "most voters," vs. the Very Serious People:
What I learn from political scientists is that this is all fantasy — albeit a kind of fantasy beloved of political pundits, who love to imagine that complicated psychodramas are playing out in the minds of voters. Well, here’s a little secret: most voters don’t sit around reading Clive Crook columns or debating the Bowles-Simpson plan. They have a gut sense — things are getting better or they’re getting worse — and mainly vote on that basis. They’re not paying attention at all to this stuff. 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Big U

"from an infrared perspective."
Um, okay.


Guess it's a good thing my copy of Krauss's Universe From Nothing is sitting on the kitchen counter. Remember, you are stardust.

'The President Likes Salted Caramel'

So do I. I heard about this dinner on the radio last night and wanted some of that bison Wellington right away. But no, just ham and eggs here.
Okay, why am I putting this up? Just for giggles. I ran across it while searching for and successfully finding the great Q&A between Obama and the Congressional Republicans at their annual conference two years ago. (Q&A starts at about 19:17) Storing up ammunition for the war to come, that one for the expected teleprompter skirmish.


Bonus: Colbert on the long, drawn-out Republican primaries.
"This is great. The Democrats had the same situation when they won last time in 2008. Now, Republicans get that Hilary vs. Obama magic, minus any women or black people. Or magic."

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

HCs, Every One


Thirteen University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign scientists, all of whom skate for the Twin City Derby Girls.
Top row, left to right: Therafist, clinical psychologist; Anthrobrawlogist, biological anthropologist; Snarker Posey, legal information scientist; Doc Dementer, educational psychologist; Oh No Bobo, veterinarian; Killy Love-less, social scientist; MRSA, microbiologist.
Bottom row, left to right: Jo Holley, evolutionary ecologist; Gaya Jenda, family scientist; Mrs. T, educational psychologist; F1, developmental psychologist; Punchwrap Supreme, reproductive toxicologist; Polly Nator, evolutionary biologist.
This entry courtesy of Anthrobrawlogist.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Is That You, Bill?

If you cannot understand my argument, and declare "It's Greek to me", you are quoting Shakespeare; if you claim to be more sinned against than sinning, you are quoting Shakespeare; if you recall your salad days, you are quoting Shakespeare; if you act more in sorrow than in anger, if your wish is father to the thought, if your lost property has vanished into thin air, you are quoting Shakespeare; if you have ever refused to budge an inch or suffered from green-eyed jealousy, if you have played fast and loose, if you have been tongue-tied, a tower of strength, hoodwinked or in a pickle, if you have knitted your brows, made a virtue of necessity, insisted on fair play, slept not one wink, stood on ceremony, danced attendance (on your lord and master), laughed yourself into stitches, had short shrift, cold comfort or too much of a good thing, if you have seen better days or lived in a fool's paradise - why, be that as it may, the more fool you, for it is a foregone conclusion that you are (as good luck would have it) quoting Shakespeare; if you think it is early days and clear out bag and baggage, if you think it is high time and that that is the long and short of it, if you believe that the game is up and that truth will out even if it involves your own flesh and blood, if you lie low till the crack of doom because you suspect foul play, if you have your teeth set on edge (at one fell swoop) without rhyme or reason, then - to give the devil his due - if the truth were known (for surely you have a tongue in your head) you are quoting Shakespeare; even if you bid me good riddance and send me packing, if you wish I were dead as a door-nail, if you think I am an eyesore, a laughing stock, the devil incarnate, a stony-hearted villain, bloody-minded or a blinking idiot, then - by Jove! O Lord! Tut, tut! for goodness' sake! what the dickens! but me no buts - it is all one to me, for you are quoting Shakespeare.
- Bernard Levin, quoted in The Story of English

A Little Perspective

Is This The Feminist Spring?

Premiere Networks, which distributes Limbaugh as well as a host of other right-wing talkers, sent an email out to its affiliates early Friday listing 98 large corporations that have requested their ads appear only on “programs free of content that you know are deemed to be offensive or controversial (for example, Mark Levin, Rush Limbaugh, Tom Leykis, Michael Savage, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity).”
Where can I buy me some of that social media? Oh, wait...

Friday, March 9, 2012

Paragraph O' Teh Week

A.O. Scott's review of the Israeli movie Footnote makes me want to see it, but the last paragraph makes me want to know A.O. Scott.
Academic life and family life are both built on love — the love of learning, the love of other people — but they survive on contention, renewing and extending quarrels from one generation to the next. Interpretation begets interpretation, and a father’s mistakes are corrected by the errors of his children. There is no reason to suppose, or to hope, that this will end. The substance of human existence is argument, and each of us has a footnote to contribute.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Demonology

There's a cool site for all things diabolical. Like this, for instance:
Azathoth – Rules all time and space from a black throne at the center of Chaos.


Sometimes a commenter at MeFi will post a definition out of a current post or comment just to be funny. I'm tempted.


MetaFilter: rules all time and space from a black throne at the center of Chaos.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Women's Campaign Fund?

Never heard of them. Until today, when suddenly it's decided that anytime anyone says anything sexist, the president needs to stop, turn around, call a news conference, and condemn it. Right.
Romney? Romney who? Limbaugh, oh that was so last week. Today it's Bill Maher 24/7.
Why? Well, cuz we're the Women's Campaign Fund, that's why.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Dept. Of I Didn't Know That Dept.

Charles V, the Habsburg emperor, is alleged to have said that he spoke French to men and Italian to women; he also revealed that he conversed with God in Spanish and with his horse in German.
David Gilmour, The Pursuit of Italy

It's a much more interesting book, and more readable, than I anticipated. Reading about the reality of Italy and its history makes it a lot easier to understand its seemingly chaotic politics. Italians don't really identify as a single people of a single nation.
We talk of the Italian language and the Venetian dialect as if the second is a sort of deviant of the first whereas it is in fact much older, evolving from Latin centuries before the birth of Dante.
Venetian is only one example. There are dozens of dialects alive and well in Italy, where half the population speaks a dialect at home and thousands and tens of thousands still speak German, French, Slav, Arabic, Spanish and variations in different parts of the country.
They are as possessive of their dialects as any Native American tribe is of its lost language, and for much the same reason. Italy is a country of many tribes, not many of them ethnically "pure," however.
 It's the geography mostly, its vulnerability to invasion and the difficulty in travel with a mountain range dividing it north to south. I've lost that romantic notion of Italy and will henceforth retain it only for Tuscany. And Venice, of course. Fuck Rome and the Nazi horse you rode in on, Benedict.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Honorary Contrarienne

Alice Neel became a sort of feminist icon in the 1970's — and a frequent guest on the Johnny Carson show — after a lifetime of bohemian artistic obscurity, which her two children clearly still remembered with some bitterness long after her death and their long adult lives of success. Yet the two men retained her New York apartment after her death, and one of them used it to conduct business. They said they wanted to be near her.
I love her paintings and am thinking about getting a print of this.
There's no particular reason to feature Alice Neel today except I just finished watching the documentary about her done by her grandson Andrew Neel and have been thinking a lot about her, the sacrifices she made, the huge tragedies involved in her persistent pursuit of her art.
You can see a lot more of her portraits here.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Quote O' Teh Day

Why I love Andrew Sullivan's View From Your Window Contest.
Prior to this morning, I was pretty sure I was the only one reading the Dish from Swaziland every day

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The List

I'm really glad Andrew Sullivan decided to highlight Brian Cox today because it gives me an excuse to publish my list, which I worked on all day yesterday (off and on, I also slept a lot) and seems to be all I need for now.
Remember I claimed (honestly reported) to have awakened wanting some sort of comprehensive accounting of the universe and all its things in some sort of hierarchal order so I could grasp it?
You don't remember? Well, I did and it was just a day or so earlier and remember I posted that coolest thing size scale vid?
So yesterday I just though FI!, the vid isn't really what I need, I need something all on one page, so I started with the vid and Wikipedia and made my own and here it is.
I'm going to carry it around with me to consult and write poems about it, but basically I just need it so I won't forget.

subatomic particles
chemical elements
atoms
molecules
cells
tissues
organs
organic systems
organisms

There's probably a 3rd grade science book somewhere that explained that to me, but I was repelled by science and math for reasons that have yet to be explained. Maybe because there were no people in there, all the more reason to dramatize the history, which is all very impressive. Did you know Marie Curie's daughter also won a Nobel? Did you know some didn't want to give Marie her second prize because of her scandalous affair with a married colleague? Heh.

Reading Nabokov In Port Townsend

Not really, but I guess I may try it. Actually am reading Roger Ebert's memoir, which is more leaden than his typically short pieces, underscoring the newpaper writer's lament — "I don't think I can write anything longer than 15 inches."
He's gone through all the major interview subjects with nary a usable quote, but offers a gem in a piece about his friend the sports writer Bill Nack, who used to recite favorite passages from books.
From Nabokov's Pnin, a perfect metaphor:
With the help of the janitor he screwed onto the side of the desk a pencil sharpener—that highly satisfying, highly philosophical instrument that goes ticonderoga-ticonderoga, feeding on the yellow finish and sweet wood, and ends up in a kind of soundlessly spinning ethereal void as we all must.
There are so many perfect things about that paragraph that I despair of ever writing even that much again. Maybe I'll try for a perfect sentence. Oh, wait...

Just to deconstruct this a little. The repetition of ticonderoga is the exact sound of a pencil sharpener. You have to listen, and remember, many times to get that right. He could have said it growled, but it wouldn't have been the same.
The sweet wood. We've all smelled it. Even tasted it. I can smell it now.
Okay, I get why it's highly satisfying, but not why it's highly philosophical unless it's a reference to the ending of the thought, in which case the allusion is lost by the time you get there. So, yeah, I can even criticize Nabokov, but what other "highly" could he have used to balance out the rhythm of the whole thing?
Soundlessly spinning ethereal void. Really dangerously elevated language. It only works because of everything that's come before.
 He does not much break up this somewhat long sentence (long for journalism, long for Hemingway). I would have put a period after void and made "As we all must" it's own short, tap-tap sentence. But that's my rhythm, not his.
Tune in tomorrow as Julimac deconstructs The Bible!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Where's That Novel

I put in the drawer? I think it might be worth something after all.
I never heard of Kickstarter until today, but it sounds cool.

  31 films playing at this year’s South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas, were funded by Kickstarter donations, over 10 percent of those playing, along with 17 films at theSundance Film Festival.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Coolest Thing On Teh Intertubes. Evah.

I woke up wishing I had something like this (really, I did, I was thinking particle, atom, cell, whosis, jeez I wish I had a chart) and then suddenly this appeared via something you might also like, The Browser's weekly best-of newsletter.

UPDATE: Actually, I was thinking neutrino, then particle, etc. Turns out, there's string. It figures.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

More Brain Stuff

When you look at the structure of the brain it's made up of neurons. Of course, everybody knows that these days. There are 100 billion of these nerve cells. Each of these cells makes about 1,000 to 10,000 contacts with other neurons. From this information people have calculated that the number of possible brain states, of permutations and combinations of brain activity, exceeds the number of elementary particles in the universe.
Mindblowing, as they say. If you click the link, you will be at The Edge, which is a pretty cool place to be on a rainy day.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Why I Hate My (Former) Colleagues

So if dismantling the facade of lies around, say, Bush's tax cut is so easy to do--and makes you the most talked-about newspaper writer in the country--why don't any other reporters or columnists do it themselves? Because doing so would violate some of the informal, but strict, rules under which Washington journalists operate. Reporters usually don't call a spade a spade, unless the lie is small or something personal. When it comes to big policy disagreements, most reporters prefer a he-said, she-said approach--and any policy with a white paper or press release behind it is presumed to be plausible and sincere, no matter how farfetched or deceptive it may be.

This is from an old profile of Krugman, whose blog posts lately hint he's feeling some stress. Buck up, Paul, we need you.