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Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Continued On Next Bumper Sticker

Whenever I see the back of a car festooned with a kajillion bumper stickers, 29 times out of 30 it's a liberal driving a car.

I've never been sure why this is. Maybe liberals feel a need to stake out each of their bumper sticker convictions separately, as they tend to be a coalition with different specific pet issues, while conservatives can use a single sticker (Bush/Cheney 04, for example) as a shorthand for their Gods Guns n' Gays agenda.

Interestingly, when I ask liberals about this, they claim it isn't true. They seem to believe that conservatives tart up the backs of their cars just as much.

When I ask conservatives, they claim it's true but only because they fear their cars will be vandalized by the mouth-breathing liberal hordes.

I don't think conservatives seriously believe this -- but you gotta feed that persecution complex somehow.

Friday, October 23, 2009
Tim Pawlenty: Profile In Courage
Tim Pawlenty is the Marshal Petain of American politics. Nobody surrenders his stated principles as quickly or as cheerfully as he does.

On Thursday he attended a D.C. fund-raiser, where he shared his vision of the Republican party's future:

He touted his ability to win in a state with a grand liberal tradition, briefly promoted his record in St. Paul and said the GOP ought not be in the business of ideological purification.

“We don’t have a big enough party to be throwing people overboard,” he said.

Later that night, he was asked to weigh in on the curious race in New York's 23rd Congressional district, where GOP nominee Dede Scozzafava is being challenged from the right by Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman. The New York 23rd is a very conservative district, but the rift threatens to split the conservative vote and throw the election to Democrat Bill Owens.

Pawlenty was asked whether he stood by Skozzafava, the GOP nominee, or Hoffman

"I haven't been following that. I haven't studied the race at all. It's not that I would or wouldn't [endorse Scozzafava], I just don't know anything about it."

Within 24 hours -- and in spite of admitting that he didn't know anything about the race -- he was making it clear that he'd soon be part of the mob throwing Scozzafava overboard:

As a conservative I'm concerned about some of the alleged issue positions that she holds," said Pawlenty, R-Minn. "I want to be fair to both candidates and look at their records. But there are some things that [I] have been told that you know, she holds dear, that may not be consistent with conservative principles."
Translation: The Republican party might be big enough, Scozzafava might not be ideologically pure enough and throwing her overboard might be a good idea after all.

Pawlenty's "concern" seems to have more to do with the fact that conservative darling Sarah Palin has already endorsed Hoffman. Pawlenty, who needs to establish his right-wing street cred in order to hae a shot at the 2012 nomination, has got to get with the program.

This isn't the first time the Republican base has helped Tim see the light.

As governor of a state with a "grand liberal tradition", he used to express concern about global warming. But now that the Iowa caucuses loom, it's all a bunch of hippie alarmism. Last winter Pawlenty urged Congress to get the stimulus bill passed quick because the people of Minnesota needed it fast. Now, he's preaching the gospel of the 10th Amendment and telling the dadburned gummint to get off of his lawn.

Tim's flip-flop on Scoozzafava may not be his biggest, but it's certainly his quickest.


I've known a lot of good dogs. But you were one of the best.

Miss you already, Tori.

Thursday, October 22, 2009
Let's Get This Windows 7 Launch Party Started
John Cole enters the oh-so-exciting world of Windows 7

Did precisely what I was asked, uninstalled my antivirus, uninstalled itunes, and uninstalled my ati drivers, followed all the instructions, and now my desktop PC is in an infinite loop with Microsoft 7 halfway installed. It restarts, boots to the Windows 7 install screen, sends me an error message that the “install can not be located,” and then reboots. Rinse and repeat.

Heckuva job, guys. I now have a several thousand dollar paperweight.

BTW- That Windows Upgrade Advisor was teh awesome. I like downloading shit that tells me stuff will be fine before installing software that kills my computer.

Time to cowboy up, John. You knew what you were getting into. This is the same company that brought you Vista. And the Zune.

Not to mention the most interminable six-and-a-half-minute party you've ever been to:

Monday, October 19, 2009
Flash Of Genius
You have probably never heard of Bernard Silver or Norman Woodland. The title of the patent they filed on October 20, 1949 -- "Classifying Apparatus and Method" -- probably doesn't mean much to you either.

But like all great inventors they were ahead of their time.

On this sixtieth anniversary of the patent application they filed, it seems appropriate to pause and remember their remarkable accomplishment.

Silver dreamed up the apparatus, for the most part. The early concepts called for a 500-watt light bulb and ultraviolet ink; it was all mechanically unwieldy and prohibitively expensive. Nevertheless, the basics were all there, and an inhabitant of the 21st century would probably grasp its purpose right away, even if someone from Silver and Woodland's own time would be completely baffled.

The method was envisioned by Woodland. He stood on the beach one day and drew a Morse code message with his foot. He found that by vertically extending the dots and dashes he could create a visual code of wide and narrow lines that Silver's apparatus might recognize.

More than two decades passed before technology caught up with their idea. And even more time passed before the initial resistance to their invention fell, before people stopped believing that it was a subversive plot, or a symbol of crushing conformity, or even the Mark of the Beast. Before it became just a mundane part of our everyday lives, hardly worth thinking about.

And that, in a nutshell, is the story of technology itself.

Thursday, October 15, 2009
When You Think About It, What Isn't Like A Russian Gulag?

Ladies and gentlemen, meet Rep John Shadegg (R-AZ), who manages to wear shoes and socks and hold down a responsible job while publicly saying things like this:

What we’re really getting here is, we’re not just getting single-payer care. We’re getting full on Russian gulag, Soviet-style gulag health care.

Not only do I not know what this means, I feel pretty confident that Shadegg doesn't know either. He just opens his mouth and this stuff comes out.

It seems pretty clear that he doesn't know what "single-payer care" means, let alone "Russian gulag". He seems a bit shaky on the concept of "health care" too.

Even by the standards of House back-benchers, this is pretty egregious. Maybe I'm naive, but I actually expect elected officials to mount better arguments than the wild-eyed people who bellow from streetcorners while wearing sandwich boards.

Not surprisingly, this is the guy that the National Review endorsed for House Majority Leader in 2006.

Heck of a job, National Review.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Wednesday Night Poem

Bottom-liners beware:






--James DePriest

Meet The New Majority, Same As The Old Majority
Over at New Majority, Zac Morgan is dreaming:

President Obama addressed the Human Rights Campaign last night and re-declared his opposition to “don’t ask, don’t tell.” But wait a minute: he’s commander in chief. If he’s opposed, why doesn’t he actually do something about it?

Here’s one issue where conservatives with their traditional concern for the military can outbid the all-talk president.

I agree that Obama's slow-walking of DADT repeal is unconscionable. And I agree that this situation presents Republicans with a golden opportunity to emerge as a credible alternative at the ballot box for millions of gay and lesbian voters.

But the Republican base has shrunken too far to allow this. Remove the homophobia from the current Republican voter and you will be left with only a few pounds of chemicals.

The only reason Obama is moving so slowly on this is that he knows he can get away with it. Even if all he gives the gay community is talk, that's more than the Republicans are giving them. It isn't right. But it's true.

Saturday, October 10, 2009
The Curious Economics Of The Film Industry
Alex Tabarrok's brother is noodling about the movies:
One interesting thing that I've always found about the film business from an economic point of view is that unlike in any other business I can think of, the cost of manufacturing the product has no affect on the purchase cost to the consumer. For example Honda can make a cheaper car with less features and cheaper finishes than BMW without losing all of their customers to the superior car because they sell their product for less. You spend less to make something, you charge less for it. Makes complete and obvious sense. Not so in the film business. I am an independent film producer and I make films that typically cost somewhere between $5M and $10M. But when I make, say, an $8M film it has to compete at the same price level as the studios' $80M or $100M film. It costs the consumer the same $12 at the multiplex (and whatever it costs to rent a DVD from Blockbuster these days) for either film. There is no price advantage to the consumer for choosing to see a less expensive film. This naturally makes it terribly difficult for smaller films to find an audience. I find this quite fascinating and I can't readily think of another industry like it.

Well, let me take a stab at it.

Look at the art world. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art recently commissioned a $25 million exhibit piece from sculptor Jeff Koons. The sculpture will consist of a life-size replica of a 1943 Baldwin steam locomotive suspended by a life-size replica of a 160-foot tall lattice-boom crane. Reportedly the locomotive will belch steam, the wheels will turn and the whistle will blow periodically.

Now, just because Koon's sculpture cost $25 million to produce doesn't mean it's a Cadillac and Van Gogh's The Starry Night (slapped together with paint and canvas in an underheated garret) is a Yugo.

I suspect the pricing structure for films became set quite early on, back when the theater chains were owned by the studios and the production costs of motion pictures did not vary to a great extent. Film was more like television in that the product had to turn over very quickly to keep an audience coming to the local cinema every week. And the nominal price of admission in those days assured that, for an evening's entertainment, it was the best deal in town. And this remained true regardless of the economic climate.

The idea of having to choose between two movies, one which had a kajillion times the budget as the other, is a fairly modern problem. Financial disparities existed in the old studio system, but not to that degree.

Let me give you an example. In 1939, MGM released a lavish Technicolor spectacle called The Wizard of Oz. It cost $2.7 million to produce, a princely sum at the time. Meanwhile, the poverty-row studio Monogram released Charlie Chan On Treasure Island. That film cost $120,000. So The Wizard of Oz cost about 25 times what Charlie Chan On Treasure Island did.

And that was about as far apart as the financial disparities went in those days.

Flash forward to 1997, when James Cameron's Titanic (with a reported budget of $200 million) went toe to toe with Peter Cattaneo's The Full Monty ($3.5 million). Titanic's budget was nearly 60 times the budget of The Full Monty, they were released about the same time, and they both made a lot of money. In fact, in terms of return on investment, The Full Monty was the better business proposition (in my opinion it was certainly a better movie).

The fact that audiences were willing to pay full price for a ticket to The Full Monty that year, or a ticket to The Blair Witch Project two years later (with its laughable $60,000 budget) means that it's the lavish studio film that is really the sucker's bet. The ones who should be demanding lower ticket prices for indie films are the studios, because lower ticket prices would guarantee lower return on investment for small films, and would ultimately mean fewer indie releases.

Interestingly, studios already charge exhibitors more for blockbuster films. Theater owners have to fork over up to 90% of the gate in the opening weeks of a hotly-anticipated film. By contrast, indie films usually cost the exhibitor half the gate. This helps mitigate the risk of an indie film; exhibitors always hope they've booked the next The Full Monty and will be able to keep half the gate of a packed house and clean up on concession sales.

Friday, October 09, 2009
Barack Obama? Really?
I consider myself a pretty loyal Obama supporter, but I have to say I was baffled by the Nobel commission’s decision this morning to award him the 2009 Peace Prize.

My initial reaction was to look at the calendar. Is it April 1st?

Obama’s a good guy and I think he’s sincerely committed to repairing the damage that George W Bush did to the international community. Still, Obama needs to prove that his approach can bring results. There are plenty of other, more deserving candidates out there.

That said, the caterwauling from the right wing should be amusing. They went bonkers when Al Gore won in 2007. In fact, many wingers at the time said the Peace Prize should have gone to George W Bush, for his wildly successful invasion of Iraq..

The Nobel Peace Prize isn’t often awarded to people for invading other countries, or for irony, so if nothing else it would have been an out-of-the-box choice.

Which brings us, inevitably, to this:

Tuesday, October 06, 2009
Is Uncle Mike "The Unknown Liberal"?

Ah, the hubris of the right wing. It is as boundless and eternal as God's love, isn't it? I guess that's why an outfit called Liberty Counsel is asking its followers to "adopt a liberal" -- a liberal whose benighted soul you can pray for.

Pick one or more of the liberals from the list we have posted online at www.LC.org, or choose your own liberal(s) to adopt. If you are led to choose one or more of the liberals we have selected for consideration, please read their brief biographical statement, including the reasons they stand in need of prayer.
Pray earnestly and intensely for them! Pray that the Lord would move upon them and cause them to be the kind of leaders who will encourage others to lead "a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence." We encourage you to seek the Lord's guidance on how to pray for your liberal(s), always allowing Him to temper your prayer with His love and mercy.

Actually, this makes a lot of sense. We know liberals are evil, right? Of course we do. And we know God, aside from being really conservative, is also omnipotent. So if we pray hard enough, God will make the liberals into conservatives, and we don't have to hate them anymore. There will be no reason to hate them, because they will love the things that God loves, like tax cuts and bombing the shit out of third-world countries. And they will hate the things God hates, like gays and poor people.

Liberty Counsel provides a pretty obvious list of liberals we should pray for, like Hillary Clinton and Rachel Maddow, and a couple of Republican moderates the Liberty Council has decided qualify as liberals, like Mike Bloomberg and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Then they throw in "The Unknown Liberal" as a placeholder -- in case you don't want to pray for any of these liberals, or don't know any of your own.

But wait! Liberty Counsel has another great idea!

There will likely be additional liberals the Lord may bring to mind who desperately need your prayers. Feel free to select your own unique liberal and adopt them for prayer, perhaps even nominating one or more liberals for listing on our website by emailing us at liberty@LC.org.

Brethren, I hope that you will all pray for me, your old Uncle Mike. I stand before you as a thoroughly unrepentant liberal. I have read liberal publications. I have written liberal words. I have given money to liberal causes. I have even thought liberal thoughts.

You may not realize it, but the Lord has brought you to this web site! He wants you to nominate blogger Uncle Mike to the Liberty Counsel for inclusion on their list. Just email them at liberty@LC.org.

And tell 'em God sent you.

Saturday, October 03, 2009
We're Gonna Win Twins, We're Gonna Score

It may be dreary, rainy evening here in the Lost City, but ah, it's still been a beautiful day.

Why, you ask?

Because today -- after months of trailing by 4 or 5 games --the Minnesota Twins caught up with the Detroit Tigers and are tied for first place in the American League Central.

And it happened thanks to an eighth-inning home run by Michael Cuddyer, God bless his fully-healed fingers.

Not a moment too soon, by the way -- tomorrow is the last day of the regular season.

Both teams stand at 85 wins and 76 losses. The Twins have won seven out of their last ten games, while Detroit have dropped six of their last ten, and are currently on a three-game losing streak.

If both teams win tomorrow, or if both lose, a tie-breaker game will be played on Tuesday.

The Twins seem to have taken an interest in dramatic season finishes lately. Last season, they battled to a division tie with the Chicago White Sox, and played a tie-breaker game on September 30, 2008. The Sox won 1-0.

And in 2006, the Twins took sole possession of the AL Central on the very last day of the season -- the first time in the entire season they'd done so. The team they displaced that day was the Detroit Tigers.

Detroit had the last laugh, though. Minnesota got swept in the division series by Oakland, while the wild-card Tigers went on to meet the Cardinals in the World Series.

For the record -- and baseball is all about careful record-keeping -- the Cardinals won that series, four games to one.

Vampire Chic
Recently I was reading a breathless news item about some movie star I had never heard of.

This sort of thing has been happening more frequently in my dotage. Apparently the prettyboy in question starred in the movie Twilight, which is based on a series of popular books and which is about to spawn a sequel, or perhaps it already has, or perhaps there have been five or six sequels released in theaters without my knowledge. It's possible.

I have never read the "Twilight" books, or any of the kajillion goth-lit teen novels they inspired. But vampires are suddenly trendy again, and vampire-themed books and movies seem to be everywhere.

And why not? Like teenagers, vampires are persecuted, alienated, and angst-ridden. Plus they sleep all day and think they'll live forever. I'm actually surprised nobody exploited this similarity before. Specifically, I'm surprised that I didn't exploit this similarity before.

I would have made a complete mess of it, of course. I'm too fond of the old stuff. My early education in film was largely provided by Mel's Matinee and the late lamented Horror, Incorporated, the latter of which featured an impressive library of old Universal horror films of the 30s and 40s. Those were great movies for kids, and I delighted in seeing Lon Cheney, Jr. leap around the woods in a garage mechanic's uniform, and Bela Lugosi hamming it up with a silk cape and a thick accent. But even as a small child I found those movies comforting, not scary. They were phantasmagorical morality plays that took place in the misty past of a faraway land.

Hammer studios produced a memorable string of updated Dracula films in the 1950s. By that time Lugosi's vampire seemed campy and silly. Christopher Lee brought new menace to the role and Hammer gleefully splashed around a good deal of Technicolor blood and let their cameras linger over the busty Transylvanian barmaids.

But as the Lugosi movie had already proven, shock value inevitably devalues into kitsch.

The Richard Matheson-penned movie The Night Stalker placed a vampire in 1970s Las Vegas, with profitable results (it was, in fact, the highest-rated TV movie of all time when it aired in 1972). But that film's vampire, Anton Skorsny, was simply a hissing, growling monster, without any evidence of intelligence. It was Anne Rice who created what we might regard as the modern version. Her 1976 novel Interview With the Vampire depicted creatures who are tormented individuals. Some -- like Louis -- are overwhelmed by their immortality, and suffer greatly under the weight of the nightly feast of blood that they must pursue. Others, like Lestat, are cheerful hedonists who revel in their eternal lives and resent the gloominess of their more moralistic brethren.

This more nuanced take of the vampire's motives clearly influenced the British miniseries Ultraviolet, a police procedural in which the word "vampire" is never spoken. An elite police unit pursues "Code Vs", but their task is made difficult by the fact that their quarry don't show up on film, videotape, audio recordings and cannot be heard over the phone.

The Code Vs, we learn, are using their sophisticated organized crime network to develop a way to artificially synthesize blood. Are they a persecuted minority who only want to find a way to live in peace with the humans? Or is there something else afoot?

But now, with the teen vampire craze, we are overdosing on beautiful, morose goth kids who can't die. And they're not really plotting anything except how to survive the living death of their teenage years. I went through it once; that was enough. But thanks anyway.

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